1. Jason Shackell 49
2. Frank Fielding 47
3. Craig Bryson 46
4. Gareth Roberts 41(3)
5. Jeff Hendrick 39(4)
6. Jamie Ward 37(2)
7. Ben Davies 31(5)
8. Theo Robinson 29(12)
9. Paul Green 28(1)
10. John Brayford 26(1)
11. Steve Davies 21(6)
12. Shaun Barker 21(1)
Six of this top dozen are relatively recent signings, five of whom arrived on permanent deals last summer.
It’s undeniable that Shackell, Fielding and Bryson have provided something the team had been lacking for a long time – a real ‘spine’. The only thing that really remains to be added to the jigsaw is the centre forward who can be expected to play 40+ games in a season and score at least 15 league goals.
Clough has been able to name an unchanged team on 11 occasions this season, compared to only twice last season and it’s no coincidence that results have improved substantially. Barring any surprise departures or terrible injuries, ten of the twelve players named above will be available next season, giving the benefit of continuity, which the Rams haven’t really had in years. Constant chopping and changing of players, injuries, a revolving door of loanees – none of that helps when a club is trying to develop a strong team spirit and a style of play.
It’s also well worth mentioning the emergence of academy product Jeff Hendrick, who has become an automatic pick at the age of 20. It’s great to know that the academy will be a source of first-teamers going forward, with Callum Ball, Mark O’Brien, Will Hughes and Mason Bennett all likely to be involved at some point next season.
MOST EXPENSIVE PLAYERS
1. Jason Shackell (£1,000,000)
2. Shaun Barker (£900,000)
3. Chris Maguire (£470,000)
4. Frank Fielding (£400,000)
= James Bailey + John Brayford (combined £800,000)
The only blot on Clough’s transfer copybook here is Chris Maguire, signed for just under £500,000 in a climate where £500,000 is a lot of money. However, Shackell has proved his worth as a genuine £1m defender. He is, as Barker recently put it, a “Rolls Royce” (and so a Derby County centre back should be).
Frank Fielding was an absolute steal. “It’s a good job that Blackburn is currently run by idiots”, as Tommo put it.
Ramspace recently did a worthwhile article, giving suggested current values for all of last summer’s signings, compared to the fee they were bought for. I didn’t agree with all of their hypothetical valuations, but the point they were making – that the players we signed have generally gained value since joining – was a good one.
1. Steven Davies 12*
= Theo Robinson 12**
3. Craig Bryson 6
4 Jamie Ward 4
5. Callum Ball 3
= Jeff Hendrick 3
(* If you count the goal in the home defeat to Watford, which I thought should have been credited to Ben Davies)
(** If you count the one in the home draw with Posh, which Theo apparently got a touch on!)
At the start of this season, I wrote: –
“On last year’s numbers, about 70 goals gives you a chance of getting into the top six at the end of the season. If Tyson, Maguire, Steve Davies and Ward score ten each, that’s 40 of them. Then say Cywka and Robinson chip in ten between them, add ten from midfield (Ben Davies, Bryson, Pearson’s annual goal) and a half-dozen from the defenders (Barker, Shackell, Brayford) and we’re not too far short.”
But we’ve ended up at least 15 goals short.
Steve Davies chipped in his share (and Clough says he expects more from him next season), while Robinson has greatly exceeded my pre-season expectations. However, Tyson, Maguire and Ward have managed only five of the 30 league goals I was hoping they would contribute between them. It’s doubtful that Maguire will still be at the club by the start of next season, but Tyson and Ward will. We need more from them.
The midfield did manage to chip in a dozen goals, mostly thanks to Bryson – and there were five from the defenders. It’s up-front where we’ve been short and that’s where we must strengthen in the summer.
1. Ben Davies 13
2. Craig Bryson 8
3. Jamie Ward 6
4. Jeff Hendrick 4
5. Paul Green 3
= Theo Robinson 3
Four of ‘dead ball specialist’ Ben Davies’ assists have come from free kicks, plus one from a corner. Ward also managed an assist from a corner, making two goals scored from corners this season.
DIRECT GOAL INVOLVEMENT (DGI)
(This is something I invented recently, after reading ‘Moneyball’ – maybe it’s daft, but I kind of like it. You add a player’s goals to his assists and divide the total by the overall number of goals the club has scored in the season. Where two players come out with the same score, I’ve decided to give primacy to the player who scored more goals.)
1. Theo Robinson 0.283
2. Craig Bryson 0.264
3. Ben Davies 0.264
4. Steven Davies 0.245
5. Jamie Ward 0.189
(Total Goals in all competitions = 53)
What this DGI index shows is that Theo, Bryson and the Davies brothers have all individually been involved in about one in four of our goals this season, with Jamie Ward involved in less than one in five.
Just to put this into context – Southampton have scored 85 league goals this season in all competitions and Rickie Lambert, with 27 goals and 14 assists, has a league DGI index of 0.482 – in other words, he has been directly involved in nearly half of the Saints’ league goals. For Arsenal in the Premier League, Robin van Persie has 28 goals and 12 assists. The Gunners have scored 68 goals in the league, giving van Persie a DGI index of 0.588.
1. Jason Shackell 9
2. Gareth Roberts 6
3. Craig Bryson 5
= James Bailey 5
5= Shaun Barker, Ben Davies, Theo Robinson, Jamie Ward, Steve Davies 4
1. Frank Fielding 1
This is an improvement from previous seasons – the last three seasons have seen three, four and two red cards. Even the one sending-off, Fielding’s first-minute dismissal at the City Ground, was debatable to say the least.
I’m still convinced that part of the reason Dean Moxey was sold was because of his penchant for being sent off. Clough seems to expect his players to behave themselves and certainly, we do not have any players who are prone to committing reckless challenges. There certainly isn’t any nastiness to the current Derby County side and that’s why we generally finish games with 11 men on the pitch.
AVERAGE ATTENDANCE 26,019
As we can see, the general trend for home attendances since the start of 2009/10 has been downwards. This is a problem in the era of Financial Fair Play, as the more revenues we can generate from ticket sales, merchandise and so on, the more of a ‘competitive advantage’ we will have, to use Tom Glick’s phrase.
We have had home attendances of less than 25,000 on 13 occasions this season. The average of just over 26,000 is propped up by sell-outs in the games against Southampton, Leeds on Boxing Day and Forest. The league low of 22,040 came on a midweek night in November against Brighton, when we had lost the previous four games on the trot.