The ones that got away – Derby County’s attacking transfer targets who went elsewhere

The other day, I was emailing back and forth with Joe Burns, who runs the techie side of the website from his home in Chicago.  Somewhere along the line, inbetween emailing Andy Appleby and betting on the horses (he’ll be Feeling happy to bet on Kentucky Derby after having won $300 backing the winner last year), he got to asking me to do a post on all the strikers Clough has tried to sign over the years who ended up elsewhere.

JAMIE MACKIE (Plymouth Argyle)

Reports of our interest started to surface in December 2009, at which time Mackie’s club Plymouth were heading towards relegation from the Championship.  Forest and Boro were also linked, with fees between £1m and £2m mentioned, but no deal was done in the January window.

After Plymouth went down, Neil Warnock confirmed that he wanted to sign Mackie for QPR and with money no object for the club at the time, the deal was wrapped up before the end of May.

Joined: Queens Park Rangers (May 2010, undisclosed) 


Joined on a three-month loan in September 2009, but his stay was cut short through injury.  After he returned to fitness, Derby announced that they had agreed a deal to bring him back for the rest of the season at the start of the January window.  It never happened, with reports suggesting that Everton had ‘moved the goalposts’ and asked for a sizeable loan fee.  In the end, Clough loaned Gilles Sunu from Arsenal instead and Vaughan joined Leicester on a half-season loan.  However, Clough maintained an interest in the player for the next season.

As it turned out, after loan spells at Crystal Palace in 2010/11, Vaughan eventually joined newly-promoted Norwich in summer 2011.  Huddersfield Town signed him on a season loan last August and he has scored 8 goals in 24 league appearances this season.

Joined: Leicester City (February 2010, loan), Crystal Palace (August 2010, loan), Norwich City (May 2011, £2.5m)

TOMMY SMITH (Portsmouth)

Towards the end of the depressing 09/10 season, reports filtered through that Clough had approached Portsmouth with a view to taking Smith on loan and possibly on a permanent deal in the summer.  Portsmouth, who were heading for relegation from the Premier League at the time, rejected the loan bid and Smith eventually moved to big-spending QPR on an initial loan, which became a £1.5m transfer the following January.

Joined: Queens Park Rangers (August 2010, loan)

GARY HOOPER (Scunthorpe United)

Scunthorpe were managed by Nigel Adkins at the time and achieving incredible things for a club of their size.  Their strike partnership of Hooper and Paul Hayes did wonders for them – not least against Derby – and Clough expressed an interest in signing both of them at one time or another.

Hooper was the younger and more talented of the two and papers linked Derby with a £1m bid in summer 2010.  However, his goalscoring exploits alerted plenty of other clubs too, including Premier League Wolves and Wigan and Scottish giants Celtic.  The bidding got too fierce for Derby pretty quickly, with Middlesbrough and Celtic ultimately agreeing fees in the £2.5m bracket with the Iron.  Hooper became a Hoop and Clough was left to tell Radio Derby that he would look to loan in a striker for the 10/11 season instead.

Joined: Glasgow Celtic (August 2010, £2.4m)

BILLY SHARP (Sheffield United)

Derby were linked with Sharp in summer 2010, as Doncaster Rovers tried to follow up the striker’s successful season-loan move with a permanent transfer from Sheffield United.  The Derby Telegraph reported that Sharp was ‘on the list’, but other clubs rapidly started to ramp up the bidding and Burnley apparently agreed a seven-figure fee with the Blades.  It all went quiet at Derby’s end, but after the Clarets couldn’t agree terms with Sharp, Donny pushed the boat out to sign the player for £1.1m.

Joined: Doncaster Rovers (August 2010, £1.1m)

ADAM LE FONDRE (Rotherham United)

Clough never confirmed any interest in Le Fondre, but nevertheless, Derby were repeatedly linked with the Rotherham United striker, who had scored 30 goals for the League Two outfit in 09/10.  Messageboard users and tweeters in both Rotherham and Derby swore blind that we were scouting him, but nothing ever happened.

The Millers turned down a bid from Huddersfield in January 2011, but in the end, Reading ‘took a punt’ on Le Fondre, taking him the following summer for a reported pittance of £350,000, plus add-ons.  His goals helped Reading to the Premier League and he has since gained quite a reputation as a ‘super sub’ by scoring repeatedly after coming off the bench.

Joined: Reading (August 2011, £350,000)

SIMON COX (West Bromwich Albion)

The Evening Telegraph reported that Cox was ‘on the list’ of potential loan signings for 2010/11 and other Championship clubs, including Reading and Swansea, were soon linked too.  However, West Brom ultimately decided to keep him until last August, when Forest paid a reported £2m for his services.

Joined: Nottingham Forest (August 2012, £2m)

CHRIS WOOD (West Bromwich Albion)

When reporting Swansea’s interest in Cox, the local paper claimed that Derby, who had also been linked, were more interested in Chris Wood.  By the end of August 2010, Derby confirmed that they had put in a loan bid, but West Brom were reluctant to let the tall New Zealand striker out, due to injuries within their ranks.

In September, Clough reaffirmed his interest and Wood was reportedly our ‘top target’,  with Tom Glick mentioning him in dispatches.  Then, suddenly – and somewhat disconcertingly – it was announced that the teenager had been loaned to Barnsley instead.

As it happened, the move was not a success, but in 2011/2, he returned to the Championship with Birmingham on loan, scoring 11 goals in 29 appearances.  By the time of his final loan move, to Millwall at the start of this season, he was ready to become a force at this level.  Leicester promptly swooped, signing him for £2m in January.

Joined: Barnsley (September 2010, loan), Brighton & Hove Albion (November 2010, loan), Birmingham City (August 2011, loan), Bristol City (January 2012, loan), Millwall (August 2012, loan), Leicester City (January 2013, £2m)

LUKE MOORE (West Bromwich Albion)

Joined on loan from West Brom in October 2010.  Not all fans took to him, but Clough did and expressed an interest in keeping him for as long as possible.  West Brom hadn’t included him in their 25-man Premier League squad, so Moore stuck around until December, when he got a better offer from Swansea.

The Swans were promoted and Moore can now be seen warming the bench whenever Match of the Day’s cameras cut to their beautifully turned-out manager, Michael Laudrup.

Joined: Swansea City (January 2011, undisclosed fee)

MARTYN WAGHORN (Leicester City)

In January 2011, the Derby Telegraph trumpeted that the Rams had agreed a deal to loan a ‘pacy striker’.  They were then given to ‘understand’ that this was Waghorn from Leicester.  However, Foxes manager Sven-Göran Eriksson poured cold water on this, saying that he wanted Waghorn to stay and citing injuries to other strikers including Paul Gallagher and Darius Vassell.

Clough continued to agitate for the move to happen, saying that the player was desperate to get out and play, but Leicester were unmoved.  When the January window closed, Clough said he would try again when the emergency loan window opened, but nothing happened.

The story was resurrected the following summer, with rumours of a £1.2m bid doing the rounds and eventually corroborated.  However, the Leicester Mercury reported that Eriksson remained loath to sell and had turned down the bid.

Reports then surfaced that Leicester had offered Waghorn to Bristol City as a makeweight in a deal for Nicky Maynard – then Southampton were linked with a straight bid of £1.5m.  At the end of August 2011, Waghorn was loaned to Hull City, while Clough presumably ate his liver in frustration.

Leicester fans have enjoyed singing ‘Waghorn’s too good for you’ ever since and the player remains with the Foxes still.

Joined: Hull City (August 2011, loan)


A whole host of clubs were linked with a move for the Kilmarnock striker in January 2011, but Scunthorpe were the first to show their hand, reportedly bidding £600,000.  After Sammon turned them down late in the window, Derby had him scouted.

When asked about the player, Clough said “he’s 24 and has done nothing much before this season.  He’s had a purple patch of late and somebody might take a gamble on him.”

Perhaps galvanised by the negative reaction to the sale of Kris Commons and the team’s atrocious form, Derby sent Gary Crosby to watch Sammon again and made a bid in the order of £425,000, which Kilmarnock rejected.  Derby refused to up their offer and on deadline day, Killie’s resolve was rewarded.  They got their asking price as the Rams were gazumped by Wigan Athletic.

Sammon never played regularly at Wigan, but Clough didn’t lose interest.  The Latics let him move to Derby last August, but doubled their money, with the transfer fee widely reported as £1.2m.

Joined: Wigan Athletic (January 2011, £600,000)

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