Mark Warburton (6/1) – With Brendan Rodgers – never a realistic candidate for the Derby job – confirmed at Celtic, Warburton’s odds have shortened and the more I think about it, the more I see him as a good candidate.
With his assistant, David Weir, Warburton did an incredible job for Brentford. Remember them battering us 1-1 at the iPro in 2014/5? There was no doubt that they deserved to make the play-offs more than us, on that showing. With McClaren struggling to put a coherent team on the pitch, Warburton sent out a well-organised team in 4-2-3-1 and put us to the sword.
That team included Moses Odubajo (signed from Leyton Orient, now at Hull), James Tarkowski (from Oldham, now at Burnley), Spurs youngster Alex Pritchard on loan, Alan Judge (let go by Blackburn), Jota, plus a certain Andre Gray, signed from Luton.
The Bees were operating on a small budget compared to most in the Championship, yet they identified a host of players with the ability to compete at the very top of the division, maybe even the level above.
Because he was plugged into that successful recruitment system at Brentford, acting as sporting director before taking the manager’s job – and from his previous experience organising the NextGen tournament for top European youth teams – Warburton has a deep knowledge of the transfer market, both here and further afield, which could be of real benefit to Derby.
Under Warburton, Brentford made the play-offs. But then a disagreement over the club’s vision with owner Matthew Benham became unbridgeable – and the Bees have not performed to the same level since Warburton’s departure.
The very best person to ask about Warburton is Billy Grant, editor of Beesotted Brentford. He thinks that a myth has developed – that the parting of ways was due to Benham’s obsession with stats alone. “Warburton was actually very much part of the stats thing, especially when he was sporting director”, says Billy. “The change came when he basically wanted to have final decision on players after we got promoted to the Championship.”
Billy’s opinion is that Warburton will want to see the job through with Rangers, rather than returning to the Championship – and you can see that. Billy said: “Next season, he is in the Scottish Prem and he could be playing in Europe the season after … I don’t think he will be going anywhere too soon.”
Neil Warnock (10/1) – He has a vast amount of experience, no shortage of self-belief and, as he points out himself, no less than seven promotions on his lengthy CV. His career stalled in the past few years – sacked by QPR, Leeds and Crystal Palace – and he is now primarily seen as a short-term fix option for clubs in need of a firm hand on the tiller.
The job he did at Rotherham this season was outstanding and Blackburn Rovers have subsequently shown concrete interest – with recent reports suggesting that Forest might also be sniffing. It seems unlikely, but it’s possible that this could trigger Mel Morris to consider a rival bid for Warnock’s services – that’s if promotion was the main aim, of course.
Think of it this way, if Warnock took over at Forest, would you be looking forward to the East Midlands Derby?
David Moyes (18/1) – One thing is for certain – Moyes is ready to ‘get back in’. He was reported to be interested in the Aston Villa job in April and was closely linked with Celtic, even setting tongues wagging recently by suggesting that he would consider a return to Everton.
You could argue that, as with Rodgers, it would be asking too much for a manager with experience at the very top to step down into division two. But if he was tempted by Villa, surely he could also have an interest in Derby?
Villa have the new owner and the parachute payments, but not the squad – a full rebuild is required there. At Derby, in theory anyway, there would be a lot less work to do on that side of things – it’s more to do with getting a couple of really good players to improve the first team and clearing out the surplus – ensuring that the recruitment machine is functioning properly should help the Rams to put together a team consistent enough to finally escape from Championship purgatory.
And when the hurdle of finally getting out of the Championship is finally cleared – the Derby job would really start then, in the Premier League, with the fight to establish the club in the top flight. Moyes would, in theory, be absolutely perfect for this. He may not be noted for playing the most ravishing brand of football, but the prerequisites of defensive organisation and discipline would not be forsaken, that’s for sure.
However, Moyes will probably not be short of options this summer and he would command a high salary – perhaps too much for a non-parachute Championship budget to accommodate. I hope that Mel’s hat is at least in the ring.
Nigel Pearson (20/1) – If he did come, we should blatantly adopt this as our new pre-match anthem…
Pearson is reportedly in strong contention for the Villa job and I see him as a good fit for that. They need somebody to go in there and sort out what has become a complete mess. There is money to spend, of course, but there are also a barrage of ‘shithouses’ to be dealt with – who better than the no-nonsense figure of Pearson for a job like that?
From reports, it sounds as if the new Chinese owner fancied the more glamorous option of Robbie Di Matteo, but the English suits are trying to talk him into the seasoned hard-man Pearson instead – and you can see why. I would be surprised if he didn’t end up at Villa.
Quique Sánchez Flores (22/1) – Anything Watford-related, you have to run it past our very own
traitor Hornets mole Jonathan Rodgers…
“For a start, although QSF undoubtedly wants to continue his coaching career in England, I doubt he would consider dropping into the Championship, whatever the offer from a rich owner. He clearly thinks he’s proved himself by what he’s achieved at Watford, his stock is quite high and most folk think he’s been treated harshly by the Pozzos (note – he hasn’t).
“I would love him to come to Derby, but I’m not sure he would fit in with Mel’s strategic vision (don’t laugh). He’s very independent and stubborn, which partly is the reason why he’s found himself out of favour with the owners at The Vic. He also set Watford up in a very, organised defensive way. Sounds a bit like a certain Mr Clement, doesn’t it? It worked, though – 13th in the Premier League and an FA Cup semi-final is nothing to be sniffed at.
“The cautious approach helped Watford get results, especially when Ighalo and Deeney were on fire, but once Ighalo lost form, points became hard to come by. And he didn’t change things, or seem to have a solution for that. He persisted in playing central midfielders in wide positions, which kept the midfield in a solid shape, but was hardly likely to lead to any flair or width on the wings. We thought he’d change that once Watford were safe and he would blood a few fringe players, but that never happened. Was he trying to prove a point?
“Another thing we need at Derby is a manager who will have a significant input into signings. That wasn’t his role at Watford – he was a coach in the continental sense, just responsible for working with the players Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury served him up with. To be fair, he was brilliant at that. His reputation as a coach – he did win the Europa League with Atlético Madrid after all – and his basic decency and quiet authority meant he had almost total respect from the players. The fans loved him, too.
“The send off they gave him at the last game was amazing. A flag with his picture on being surfed in the stands, his name chanted throughout the game and an emotional lap of honour at the end. Can’t imagine Wassall getting the same response…”
Roberto Martínez (odds unavailable) – It would be hilarious to see the Steve Nicholson video after the announcement. Nicholson, famously professional and phlegmatic in his pronouncements on Derby County, really ‘lost his shit’ over Everton’s woeful recent performances and was calling for the manager’s head long before the axe fell.
The flaw in Martínez is his well-known preference for flair football at the apparent expense of any sort of concession to defensive pragmatism. Everton have conceded way too many goals as a result, with poor John Stones held up as the emblem of this failure – a great young talent being coached to play football, but not to defend.
You could argue that the Derby job next season is actually mostly about doing better in attack. Shackell and Keogh are experienced pros, who should know their jobs by now – the big problem has been at the other end, where two banks of four (or five) have often successfully stifled the Rams, allowing them plenty of possession, but not the sights of goal to capitalise on it. A heady, goals-filled season under Martínez could be just the tonic – but then, what would happen under his leadership in the top flight?
Ian Holloway (odds unavailable) – It’s impossible to know if he was pitching for work or not when he did it, but Holloway’s glorious rant about Derby really fired this supporter up… Could his brand of motivation be the right fit for the Rams at this stage?
He would not be a ‘sexy’ appointment and his latest stint at Millwall was unsuccessful – but if you want promotion to the Premier League, he has the CV. He did it with Blackpool, then he did it again with Crystal Palace, thanks to Kevin Phillips’ winning penalty. Could he do it again, at a club with a bigger fanbase and budget?
I don’t see him as a contender for the Derby job. But what Holloway made very clear in his righteous tirade was that he would not have stood for the sort of limp, gutless surrender passively overseen by Wassall at the iPro against Hull – and that message, delivered with genuine feeling, certainly resonated with many fans.