Greetings. It’s been a while hasn’t it? I’ve been trying to work out why it has been so long actually. The achievement of getting a work placement? The arrival of a table tennis table? A new cat we appear to have adopted? A lack of Microsoft Word on my new laptop? Lazyness? These have all been distractions or limiting factors, to put a scientific slant on things. All I can say is that, like Wayne Rooney’s hair, i’m back. And what better time to return than after a 100% start for Derby in the league?
My job involves me travelling by bus to spend my time around people who report on, commentate on and in general know an awful lot about the Rams. I’ve also met some of the players and management staff at the press conferences. It really is quite fascinating for someone who is quite easily star-struck like myself. The general consensus is that the new signings have fit in well and contributed towards a great team spirit at the club. A team spirit that has seen Derby hold on to one goal leads against Birmingham and Watford. A team spirit that has seen us win matches that we could well have drawn or lost last season. A team spirit that we don’t talk about when the Shrewsbury match is mentioned, I must add. Nigel Clough and co have obviously been watching the way the bus drivers develop team spirit. Each time they pass a fellow bus driver, a hand goes up to acknowledge them, sometimes even an exaggerated wave (a sign of good friends). Whether it be on the other side of a duel carriageway, or the other side of the English channel, when a bus driver see’s a big bright orange/red/green people carrying device, they will stick their hand up. Great team spirit. When greetings are not exchanged, there are problems, big problems. The shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand started one major war; an unreturned greeting between bus drivers may cause another one in the future.
I digress. Why have Derby started off so well? The signing of Jason Shackell from Barnsley has been a very good one and a big reason for the good start. At over a million quid, it was a big piece of business for the Rams, but it backs up that obvious saying “you get what you pay for”. On the bi-annual occasions I win a bet, I like to treat myself to a Saturday night Indian takeaway. It costs considerably more than it does to make it yourself with a Tesco jar of sauce (other brands are available), but crikey, it is incomparably better. You get what you pay for. There is a time for bargain shopping from the lower leagues (and Scotland), and then there is a time for spending (relatively) big. For Derby to progress, there needs to be more Shackell type signings. Don’t confuse this with “doing a Leicester” though, because there’s not a chance they can achieve the elusive bus driver type team spirit, and without that, they will struggle to get out the league, despite their overspending.
So far Shackell appears to be the best signing, but Frank Fielding adds a freshness to the back 5. The new boys from Scotland, Craig Bryson and Chris Maguire will show more of what they can (or can’t) do in the coming weeks. Chris Riggott has bundles of quality (how much a bundle is, i’m not sure), and if he can rid himself of the injuries that have plagued his career, he will be a great addition to the squad. If the Rams can get cover at both left and right back (Kilbane is too slow to be a left back and John Brayford surely can’t be superman for another season), then our defence will be one of the strongest in the league. Theo Robinson will be good the moment he realises he is not actually a headless chicken, and instead a footballer that needs to control a ball and utilise his speed more efficiently. Steve(n) Davies is finally showing what a quality player he is, and along with new signings Jamie Ward and Nathan Tyson (from our dearest neighbours), there are plenty of options up front.
What looks like really stopping the Rams from not joining the likes of Peterborough, Coventry and Doncaster in the race to League One, is injuries. There is a lot about nurses being unable to get work in the NHS. Send them to Moor Farm. They’ll be working in better conditions and will be riddled in work (I dare say at better pay too). As I write this, distracted by two cats trying to work out the others intentions, Derby could put out an injured 11, and with a few additions like Kieron Dyer and Jonathan Woodgate, it is an 11 that would be competitive in the Championship. So why all the injuries? Bad luck? Bad coaching? A combination of the two? No-one can put their finger on it, but if they could, that finger would probably end up broken.
Tomorrow night Derby travel to Blackpool. We will probably lose 2-0 as a result of the old dog Kevin Phillips, and people will then start worrying about relegation again, as a Derby fan should. This article is not to try and hype our chances up, it is merely to state that as a club, we have huge potential to actually do well. Our squad is strong in some areas, but needs quality additions in others. It’s make or break for Nigel too. If he can learn from his previous mistakes (of which there are many), then the Rams will perhaps surprise 93% of the country. But the truth of the matter is, because of our good start, draw our remaining 44 games and we should, SHOULD, stay up, and sadly, that is all that is expected of us in the national media. Come on you Rams!