The ‘wally with the brolly’ enjoying life where it all began, back at Derby County.
Nigel Clough’s shock sacking after the Forest game put the icing on the cake in a pretty bleak September. The East Midland club had claimed a possible 4 points out of 12, still winless at home and lost to both local rivals in a matter of days.
Sam Rush moved fast to bring in former England manager Steve McClaren which was undoubtedly an unpopular decision after his tenure at Forest proved disastrous bringing in several poor quality players on high wages.
However, he was still highly regarded for the job he had done previously at Pride Park with Jim Smith in the late 90s. He took the club to the brink of Europe before he left to join up with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Furthermore, the downfall of the club after that point was largely believed to be the loss of Steve McClaren’s influence.
When he arrived the first job McClaren had was replacing the backroom staff that had been put on gardening leave, which I assume is just another word for ‘sacked, but still contracted’. He brought in former fans favourite Paul Simpson as his assistant who had been a manager in his own right in the Championship with Preston North End. He replaced Billy Davies who ironically left for Derby at the start of the 2006/2007 season. He then added world-class ranked goalkeeping coach Eric Steele who had also been at Derby previously before leaving for Aston Villa in 2001.
He was officially announced just before the game against Ipswich that academy boss Darren Wassall was due to supervise as caretaker manager. However, being 4-1 down at half time clearly irritated the new management staff to the point where they felt they needed to intervene.
10 minutes before half time Steve McClaren and assistant manager Paul Simpson talked through what their plan of action was and changes they were going to make. At half time a few ‘choice’ words were said by McClaren and he substituted international striker Conor Sammon for academy product Mason Bennett and Ben Davies for defensive midfielder John Eustace. Despite the fact Derby was 4-1 down the shape of the side look initially to go more defensive. However, the change in shape allowed Derby to cut through Ipswich with ease and rescue an unlikely point. The new management was up and running and the doubters were rearing their heads in surprise.
The official first game under McClaren and co was against rivals Leeds United. A team that Derby had beaten 9 times in a row and were looking for an unprecedented 10th win against a side that have been fairly competitive with them in recent years. The game showed off McClaren’s tactical strengths as Derby played football that Leeds were struggling to deal with and in the end the Midlands side won 3-1.
The first away game was against a side that most teams in this division would class as a ‘write-off’. Watford can boast one of the most talented sides in the division, unquestionably. They had also been unbeaten at home up to point they met Derby. Both sides were known as capable goal-scorers and played good football but I didn’t expect a game with such excitement. It finished 3-2 to Derby with Conor Sammon scoring the late winner and some of the football on show from both sides looked out of place for a second tier match up.
The next game on Saturday is at home to Birmingham and the buzz around city is back. Crowds have been dwindling since relegation at Pride Park and this season has been no different.
However, there are rumours spreading that the club expect a crowd of around 28,000 on Saturday and with the announcement of England under 21 captain Andre Wisdom signing for the season on loan, there is plenty to be excited about.
How do you expect Derby to fair this season? Can McClaren take Clough’s hard work to another level and can finish in the play-offs or higher?
image: © Ureinwohner