Derby County have been a side in transition for the last few seasons. They’ve been busy toiling down in the bottom half of the Championship, whilst teams like Blackpool and Norwich have flown through England’s second division. It seems that since Nigel Clough’s appointment as boss back in 2009, the club have been consistently under-acheiving, leading some fans to question the credibility of their club’s leader-is he only still in charge due to his father’s legendary reputation around the city?
However, a new season brings new hope, and the Rams have certainly been one of the busiest clubs in terms of transfers this summer. The signings of Jason Shackell and Nathan Tyson, bring experience of the league with them, this mixed with England Under-21 goalie Frankie Fielding and the two Scotsmen, Craig Bryson and Chris McGuire, ensure that the squad will be shaken up, in an attempt to get rid of those who simply aren’t good enough. Players like Ben Pringle and Chris Porter have left to mostly happy fans, as things never really worked out for them. The unknown quantities that the new signings bring, combined with the departures of Pringle and Porter, offer supporters a renewed sense of optimism ahead of a make-or-break season for Clough.
As previously mentioned, he has had no real sucess, during his two and a half year spell at the club, mustering only a string of lowly league positions, the fans will expect nothing less than top-half and, at best, a play-off place. During his reign, Clough has been criticised for inconsistent tactics, and a certain naiviety about the way his lines his teams up. Another criticism of his are his bizarre choice of substitutions. On many an occasion have Derby been drawing level in a game or trailing going into the last 10 minutes, and Clough brings on a defender! This has never gone down well with fans who wish to see their team fighting to the death, as they’ve paid good money to attend.
In all honesty, I can only really see the play-offs for Derby at best this season. The likes of West Ham and Birmingham coming down from the Premiership, combined with Leicester City’s spending power, mean that it’s going to be really tight at the top. However, if the Rams play their attacking, Barca-esque style of football they begun last season with, throughout the entirity of 2011/12, then they have a real chance of being up there. A good start is obviously important, and with Birmingham, Blackpool and Burnley opponents in the first six games, it’ll be a hard few games. If players like Brayford, Bailey and Cywka can find their form, and the new signings hit the ground running, then Derby could finally be in for a decent season!