Rams fan Nick Christie is a member of the Australian Branch of the Derby County supporters club and each month he gives own views of his beloved Rams. Today Nick tells of his quick trip back to the UK for the last game of the season and the TV coverage of Rams games towards the end of the season. Over to you Nick.
My apologies for not getting in touch sooner, but work commitments and a very quick trip back to the UK for the last match of the season have impacted on my time, and my nerves, and my ability to string a coherent sentence together (some might say that would be a first anyway!).
We have been blessed with a more than our fair share of live TV coverage of recent matches in OZ, and therefore I think we are in a good position to make the armchair managerial assessment of those games, starting with Luton. Although only 1-0, I would say a comfortable win, but not one which inspired me to think of the Premier League. Then the game which was just so awful, I get the shivers even thinking about it – away at Palace. Everything about that game summed up our last few months – weak in the midfield, lacking up front, and all over the place at the back.
Don`t get me wrong, I would never dream of telling Billy Davies how to do his job, but?????..starting with our midfield. In this division, at this stage of the season, with so much at stake, Jones and Oakley together is a luxury, and a midfield without bite. At least one of Seth Johnson and Steve Pearson should be in the mix, although I know that Pearson has not been available because of injury. But I had the good fortune to be at Pride Park for the last match of the season, and our midfield backbone consisted of Seth lad as captain for the day, and Steve Pearson.
They showed why Leeds are going down, and we are still in contention. I have to say that I am not sure what Morten Biscuit or Gary Teale offer us, and I thought that Currie was lacking in oomph, for want of a better phrase! Craig Fagan does show in bursts what he can do, but I`m still not sure about him either. Up front we had Pesch and Stevie Howard (da da da da), and it was good to see Pesch with his usual never-give-up attitude, always chasing, harrying, and generally causing hassle for the Leeds defence. This allowed Howard to drop back slightly, as opposed to being the lone ranger that he has been of late. At the back, Dean Leacock showed the class I saw at the Burnley game in January, and Lewin Nyatanga did nothing wrong. Jay McEveley looks to be okay, although apart from being injury-free I fail to see what he offers over Paul Boertien. Tyrone Mears, after his appalling and disgraceful showing at Palace, would have been shown the door by me, but there he was, on the pitch, in the starting line-up, and f*** me if he didn`t score a goal too!! My only defence to that is what was he doing so far out of position to be scoring goals like that?!! A great day out, with a really good atmosphere (which the Leeds fans surprisingly contributed nicely to), and it was a really nice outcome. All very nice, but really only a stroll as we prepared for the lottery of the play-offs.
Quite honestly, I would have started the Southampton game with Jones and Pearson on the bench, so that if Oakley was injured or tired then a very similar style player in Jones could easily replace him, and ditto Johnson starting with Pearson as back-up. And there you have it – that is why Billy is the manager and not me. Johnson and Pearson, with Oakley, and hey presto, a midfield with strength and more than a little ability as well. Jones on the bench, great back-up. Mears on the pitch and Edworthy on the bench? Obviously Billy knows what he is doing, but I only hope that Eddy is carrying a slight injury which resulted in the bench spot for him, because Mears is a liability in my opinion.
We were lucky that Mears`s grab at the Saints player`s ankle didn`t make real contact, because we would be facing an uphill struggle on Wednesday morning had he done so. Come the close season, I am sure that we can do better than Tyrone Mears, and you know, when I make sweeping statements like that, I am normally proved absolutely wrong (so Tye, get your finger out, a hat trick on Tuesday and a hat trick at Wembley will do nicely. Think of this as a contract incentive!!). Dean Leacock and Darren Moore, Seth Johnson and Steve Pearson, Stevie Howard and John Macken – Billy Davies was up for the crunch, and didn`t he get it right? I never expected to come away from St Marys with a draw, let alone a good win. There was no fluke or porkyness about that victory – Derby gave as good as they got, and then just a little bit more. For sure, Southampton played some lovely football, and thank you to our star the bar, but I think Southampton gave it their best shot (?) on Saturday, and if we start with the same team on Tuesday we can match them. Swap Macken for Pesch, and Mears for Eddy, and we`ll be cooking with gas!
The difference is so obvious when we play strong players in the midfield, and we get Darren Moore back where he belongs. And that`s another thing. If the referee and linesman and fourth official all missed the ‘incident` at Fester, then just who was it who informed the FA that Darren Moore needed an instant hearing? A hearing? He was judged guilty before anything took place, and was denied the right of appeal, and we lost him for 4 games – just under 10% of the season, and at a very critical stage too. The only positive any Derby fan can take from the whole dirty stinking rotten episode is that Lewin Nyatanga was recalled from loan and got a few starts under his belt. He is worth keeping for the future, and I`m sure he will do well. And the outcome for Birmingham on their postponed match because of the appalling pitch was? And whose son was involved in a fracas with Steven Bywater, resulting in the loss of our keeper?
But all this is just a small part of following Derby County. Frayed nerves, sleepless nights, grey hairs and worry lines, and that`s just thinking about how our board of directors are going to spectacularly stuff it all up by allowing Billy to go. You know it`s going to happen, it just has to. Things can`t be this right at Pride Park, can they? Does Billy`s future really hinge on whether or not he can have a proper assistant or not? If what I am hearing has some substance to it, then it is down to that. Well, exactly what does Billy Davies have to do to prove to anybody that he has what it takes? Looking at his face during the game on Saturday, he needs somebody to help him to take the pressure off. The passion in him is ready to burst out, and hopefully it will be in the direction of the Premier League with us. We will come straight back down again, but who cares? Billy will have proved his point, and Derby will have cleared their debts. In addition, Derby will have a very useful squad to come down with, one which should be capable of doing the return trip the following season. The joy of it all, and this season gives me the chance of a trip to Wembley.
I`d like to say thank you Billy Davies, for getting us to where we are. If we don`t make it to Wembley, will I be gutted? Disappointed yes, gutted no. This season has been fantastic, without the threat of relegation and without that bunch of shysters who pretended to have an interest in our club, being FB Keith and Co.
But for now, may all the residents of Maroubra in Sydney take this as an early warning – there will be some serious noise coming out of my house on Wednesday morning as I do my bit towards that trip to Wembley. Come on you Rams.
There will be more from Nick next month.