‘Mid table’ is a phrase that many Rams fans are associating with their club at the moment and their current league position doesn’t deny that. Derby County currently sit 10th in the Npower Championship and it seems as if Derby fans are in disbelief that their side will ever make that push for the Premier League under current manager, Nigel Clough.
I have heard positive and negative comments thrown towards manager Nigel Clough, the positives being his constant belief in the young talent coming through with the likes of Will Hughes, Jeff Hendrick and Mark O’Brien getting a regular spot in the clubs starting eleven and, also, the flamboyant style of play Clough’s side are playing at the moment. The negatives I hear Derby fans talking about are mainly to do with his somewhat negative setup against the big clubs at home with Clough insisting on playing 4-5-1 in some of the big playoff battles like Hull City. Quite a lot Fans believe Clough is so set on stopping the other team playing their football, he misses the fact that Derby need to focus on their football especially when playing at home and take the game to the visiting side.
With Derby County it is clear that their recent seasons show inconsistency. It seems as if, whenever Derby have a chance to drive on, they hit a bump in the road and slow down; with such a young side it can be difficult to have consistency which is why I feel Derby need to invest in some experience to partner captain Richard Keogh at the heart of the defence. The recent comeback from Jamie Ward after his spell on the sidelines with a torn hamstring and with Jeff Hendricks outstanding recent form, scoring goals and getting a call up to the Republic of Ireland national squad has seen Derby fit back into that comfortable 4-4-2 formation. Maybe with Ward back Derby will be able to settle with a consistent front pair with Conor Sammon being the other main striker.
In my opinion Derby lack that bit of cutting edge in front of goal that every promoted side in past years have had for example, Southampton had Rickie Lambert banging the goals in for them, QPR had Adel Taarbat and Swansea had Scott Sinclair. I believe Derbys’ closest player to these names is Jamie Ward, he is determined, can take a chance and has a lot of ability. If Ward can stay fit for a whole season, which he has been struggling to do of late, I believe he will be the player to lead Derby up the table.
On the management side of things, I am always torn between whether I back Clough or not. Clough is very good at bringing youth players into the first team fold like Hughes, Hendrick and O’Brien as i’ve already said, but his man management skills have quite a few times been frowned upon for instance, the way he dealt with Chris Maguire and the way he has in the past picked out players in live post- match interviews and criticised the likes of Jeff Hendrick and former Ram Tomasz Cywka. However the style Clough plays has proved to be a strong point in my eyes as it is enjoyable to watch and a good pace.
In my opinion I would give Clough till the end of the season to see whether he can make a late push for the playoffs but if Derby remain ‘mid table’ their season will have been another standard season which lacks excitement, the attendances will go down yet again and there will be a very dull atmosphere at Pride Park. If this happens I believe its time for change with managers out there yet to have been poached this season like, Nigel Adkins and Paolo Di Canio. I believe that this could be the perfect time to move on.
Written by Dominic Dietrich, We Are Going Up’s Derby County Blogger
Dominic tweets at @domjdietrich