Love him or hate you can`t ignore Robbie Savage, come Saturday afternoon he has been winding up opposition players and fans alike for the last seventeen years.
Love him or hate you can`t ignore Robbie Savage, come Saturday afternoon he has been winding up opposition players and fans alike for the last seventeen years but this weekend`s trip to the Madejski Stadium was the last of a long career. With talk around Pride Park of major surgery being needed on the squad to avoid another season of struggle and it being an important summer recruitment wise one of the major moves of note has been the retirement of Savage having played his final game in a Derby shirt. The recent wave of nostalgia would almost have you believing that Savage was a much loved footballing figurehead with a glittering career behind him leaving many a friend in the world of football sad to see him go, but will Derby fans and The Rams` squad be any worse off without his flowing locks next season? Honestly?
I`ll be the first to admit I was a little suspicious of Savage`s motivation when he first arrived at the club and his performances under Paul Jewell during the fateful Premiership year and the start of the next season certainly suggested he was looking for a way to wind down his career whilst looking to take it easy and work on his media career. Now, I`ll never be one to knock a Derby County player whilst running out at Pride Park to represent my beloved Rams if they at least give the appearance to care and give their all as Savage did but there`s always been a little part of me that has never quite settled with him being a Ram. Don`t get me wrong, I`ll hold my hand up and say I was wrong about him and his form in the first season and a half under Nigel Clough helped make him an integral part of the side and one without which it is possible the side would have suffered the ignominy of relegation to League One.
The renegotiation of his contract to take the same money but over a two year period seemed to herald light at the end of the tunnel after two year`s of doom and gloom following the swift return to the Championship and the financial shortfall this brought with it. For me though this extension of the contract seemed to gloss over the fact that Savage could no longer play in the heart of a four man midfield (Clough`s preference for 4-2-3-1 this season, in my opinion, was to fit Savage in) and whilst he gave his all and could often be seen chasing lost causes I lost count of the times he left us short in midfield in doing so leaving others to cover the gap he left whilst out of position leading to all too easy chances for the opposition. I can`t doubt his effort when he had his game head on but even that can be said to be lacking at times this season following a number of ineffective displays, although they weren`t the sole reserve of Derby`s number eight!
People talk about Savage`s experienced head and leadership on the field but has he really led the team this season? Fair enough back in October/November when things were going well he looked as though he was the focus of the team and played his role to perfection. The older head keeping things ticking over in midfield, doing the simple things, winning the ball back and giving it to his team-mates who can actually play and influence a match in a positive manner. But when things started to turn against his side, firstly results and then performances, I struggle to remember a time when he grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck and forced them to play and grind out results. Indeed, there were times during January, February and even March where he looked to have one foot, if not both, already on the beach enjoying his retirement and looking to his ‘glittering` media career.
Whilst I wish Savage the best in the future (not that I`ll be listening to 606) I think that the time has definitely come for him to move on, for both our sakes, and for The Rams to build for the future without his services. It`s going to be an interesting summer for the side and one that can do without the distraction of his ‘character` overlooking everything that happens at the club. It`ll be interesting how often Derby will be mentioned in the media next season without his draw but the balance will be restored – Derby County can go back to concentrating on football, the post match interviews won`t just be interesting in case the team`s mouthpiece throws all of his toys out of the pram in case a journalist who has never played the game dares to criticise another inept performance, and I can go back to not having to support the man through gritted teeth. Farewell Robbie, in the words of one Vincent Jones – it`s been emotional!