Usually before big games, I do a preview piece, assessing the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses – perhaps an interview with an opposition supporter, a few stats, maybe even a cheeky graph if I’m in the mood.
But for this game, which is one of the biggest games in the club’s history, I haven’t. I think it’s because I’ve been so nervous about it all week and it’s been easier just to try not to think about it.
The stats, as I read them, make Hull slight favourites, pointing to a draw at our place, which would put them in the driving seat for the second leg. The loss of Thorne is an horrendous stroke of bad luck to weight the scales in the Tigers’ favour and you could also point to the gulf in experience between Bruce and Wassall, as well as the ‘on-paper’ pedigree of Hull’s squad – Tom Huddlestone and all. Pundits are tipping Hull for this tie and some even fancy them to go all the way.
Hull are a small club punching above their weight. I admire their fans, who have been obliged to organise protests against some of Assem Allam’s more egregious ideas – the bizarre determination to change the club’s name, the weird membership scheme ruse – but I can’t help but see them in the same light as Wigan. A team from the rugby league heartland, inflated by an injection of cash from an ambitious owner – but ultimately fated to bump around in the second division, maybe lower, once the money runs out.
Derby is a bigger club, but undeniably one that dozed off one day and hasn’t ever woken up. First division crowds have endured second division football for too long now. But my question is this – is the club in a comfort zone? Too scarred from last time, is there a mentality around the place that being a big fish in the Championship pond will do, rather than tackling the tough reality of being cast as small-fry cannon fodder for the elite in the top tier?
The TV money on offer for Premier League clubs is getting bigger and bigger. At some point, the bubble will have to pop. But for now, Burnley and Boro, who both kept faith with their managers through difficult times – relegation in the former case, a leaked falling-out with the players in the latter – can bathe in the froth and will have an advantage on the Championship also-rans for years to come, if they play their hand well (and I’m sure they will).
Derby don’t necessarily need a slice of that monstrous wealth – under Morris, the club is perfectly stable – but wouldn’t it be fun to grab it and see where it took us?
This is the time to get involved – everything is set.
Bournemouth and Watford stayed up – and Derby beat both of them in 2014/5. Leicester stayed up that season and now they’ve won the fucker, thus handily resetting the whole narrative. The idea that money is king and decides the fate of all-comers no longer applies.
I’m tired of ‘The Also-Rams’. No more. The sleeping giant needs to wake the fuck up.
Let’s go out there, stomp Hull and get to Wembley. Then let’s prove we’re better than whoever else is put in our way.
Let’s get to the Premier League and see if our brilliant young players can flourish. I think they can – and I want them to do it at the iPro, not somewhere else.
These are class players. They can do it. There is no reason why it shouldn’t be Derby. There is no reason why it shouldn’t be now.