Derby County manager Gary Rowett has seen his side slip out of the playoffs for the first time in almost five months, prompting a disgruntled reaction from a number of the club’s supporters.
The former Birmingham City boss took over the Rams at the back-end of last season, and to date he holds a rather solid 42.6% win rate – winning 23, drawing 17 and losing 14 of his 54 Championship games in charge.
With Derby finishing last season somewhat short of the playoffs and Rowett ultimately being forced to sell top scorer Tom Ince, the fact that the club have posted an improvement should stand him in good light.
Unfortunately for the former Derby County defender, other factors have played a part in this sudden outcry on club forums for owner Mel Morris to relieve Rowett of his duties.
Style of play
Derby fans could forgive a rebuilding period if there was evidence of the team looking to adopt an attractive style of play, but under Rowett it has been a rather dull watch for large parts of the season.
On the outside looking in, it all seems rather bizarre. Derby have a plus 18 goal difference, and have recorded as many as six 3-0 victories - including one at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
But Rowett strongly hinted at a fast-paced style upon his arrival and if anything, the football is as slow as it has been in years, while Tom Huddlestone’s 40-yard over-the-top passes are as predictable as ever.
Perhaps a lack of style can be forgiven if there is some substance at the end of it, but Derby’s dismal run of form and subsequent drop out of the playoffs means there is little joy on either front for supporters.
On the one hand, Rowett is arguably using a style of football he deems best fit for the players he has at his disposal (but he did buy some of them!), but on the flip side there is still talent in that squad many feel hasn’t been utilised properly.
Falling short of the playoffs following the team’s position at the turn of the new year would be a monumental failure and one which would place a lot of questions over Rowett’s head.
The recent 4-1 home defeat to Sunderland and the 3-1 loss at Burton Albion were embarrassing.
The recruitment since Rowett’s arrival arguably causes the most debate among supporters. Ince leaving came as little surprise, but allowing Will Hughes to go too for a relatively small fee raised a lot of doubts.
In Joe Ledley, Tom Huddlestone and Curtis Davies, Rowett has brought in three players with promotion experience and ultimately, they have played a key role in the team’s push for the top six.
But Rowett also talked about giving youth a chance and building a squad at Pride Park. Contrary to such claims, the Derby squad has instead seen a rise in the average age - while the wage bill hasn’t been lowered.
Would owner Mel Morris give Rowett the time to build a squad at Derby? After all, he sacked Paul Clement when the team were 5th in the table, and Steve McClaren was also dismissed after one poor run of form.
If Rowett is unlikely to be given time to build a squad at Pride Park, then why should he? His signings instead suggest he is only focused on the short-term with the aim of immediate promotion to the Premier League.