The Scunthorpe Problem: Will lack of squad depth torpedo Derby County in 2012/3?

After what can only be described as a hideously embarrassing capitulation against our old friends Scunthorpe United, it’s pretty clear where Derby County’s problem will lie this season, unless further signings are made before the end of the transfer window.  Lack of squad depth.

The Rams have pulled out of the Reserve League to join the new Under 21 Professional Development League for the new campaign.  In this league, three overage players are allowed in the starting eleven and at the moment, the second string team would probably look something like this:-

GK Mørch / Deeney (overage)
RB Naylor
CB Gjokaj / Lelan
CB O’Brien / Galinski
LB Hoganson / Sharpe
RM Doyle
CM Bailey (overage) / Witham
CM Dawkins / Dales
LM B. Davies (overage)
CF Bennett / Thomas
CF Richards

Teams featuring most of those players were recently mauled by Chesterfield and lost to Belper Town, giving a fair idea of how ready they are as a group to play Championship football.

The current plan is for the senior matchday squad of 16 or so to be supplemented by the under-21s where necessary.  This will leave us miles short of the play-off race, where the main players will be the clubs boosted by parachute payments – or owners who are willing to make money available, by whatever means – who allow managers to countenance larger squads.

Our first eleven is OK, pretty competitive, but how many times across the course of the season will they all be available at the same time?  Already, players are out because of injury, or unable to complete 90 minutes because of injury – and the season has only just started.  It’s unrealistic to expect that this won’t continue to be the case.

Last season, we were missing, on average, six players due to injuries per competitive game.  There were always at least three out and when we lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough (Mason Bennett’s first ever start), we were short of eleven men.  Take eleven out of the current squad and what are you left with?

 *****

I took no pleasure in predicting a lowly 17th place finish for us this season and it may turn out that I am proved to be a miserable old pessimist, but look at the teams I’ve placed above us.  In my opinion, all probably have better chances on paper for a play-off place than us, from Bolton right down to Watford.  Even Huddersfield can point to Jordan Rhodes, a player with the potential to be among the top scorers in the division.

We’re in real need of reinforcements if we want to mount any sort of challenge in the Championship this year.  There has been some suggestion in the last couple of days that there are a couple more deals to be done this month, but, as welcome as they would be, another reserve full back and Conor Sammon won’t be enough to push us into play-off contention, in my opinion.

I hope that Clough shows me up massively in the coming months.  He can start by making the Scunthorpe Problem go away with three points on Saturday…

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