The fans are growing restless at Pride Park after the Rams poor start to life in the Premier League, but we as a club have come along way in two years. In fact in April 2004 we were close too dropping into League One.
Vital derby correspondent Nick Christie from our Australian supporters club gives his views of the Rams on and off the park. Over to you Nick
You asked what my take was on and off the park, in light of the, ahem, slightly poor start to our season in The Premier League. On the park or off the park first? To be or not to be?
Me first sir, me first. Off the park, off the park first! At last, the wheels of justice are turning, although not quickly enough for my liking. Mind you, there has to be a certain degree of satisfaction in knowing that charges of false accounting and conspiracy to conceal criminal property have been brought against those crooks that so nearly killed our club, and making those who have been charged sweat. Make them sweat (and Jeremy FB Keith could do with losing a few pounds), remind them that jail is where we would like to see them, and keep making them sweat.
Do to them what they did to us. Names keep appearing on an almost weekly basis now, and my personal thanks to Derbyshire`s finest for getting this far. I know my memory is not what it used to be, but I did think that when the ‘three amigos` took over, back in 2003, it was just three, being John Sleightholme, Jeremy FB Keith, and somebody Harding. Without researching this, other names have come up for special attention from the constabulary, including Andrew Mackenzie, Murdo Mackay, and some bloke called Mark Waters. All these people were directors of Derby County Football Club?
I am sure that there will be differing points of view as to what really sticks in people`s throats about their crooked regime, but for me (and apart from the fact that they so nearly broke the club) it would have to be the sale of Tom Huddlestone to Spurs for such a ludicrously low price. Your Honour, if I may be so bold as to suggest not only a custodial sentence of maximum proportions, but also a fine, equal to the cost of buying Tom Huddlestone back from Spurs? I am all for rehabilitation for offenders, except in this case.
They knowingly and systematically ripped off and very nearly destroyed Derby County, and FB Keith had the hide to try and put together another consortium to rival Peter Gadsby`s. Thankfully, that is now history, and the sun began to shine again at Pride Park – from about April 2006 onwards methinks.
Put them in jail and I will be very happy indeed.
The board has been reshuffled, and we have Adam Pearson at the helm, who has the brief of finding outside investment. It would seem that the US is the place to get it from, and various English newspapers are reporting this morning that the American billionaire Roy Disney is being courted. The only problem I have with that is his family name – because you can just see the headlines along the lines of ‘that Mickey Mouse outfit`.
I am not sure whether I personally want to see external investment, but what I do know is that if we want Derby County to genuinely compete at this level, and possibly even at European levels, then it has to happen. What worries me is that if it all goes pear-shaped, the crash will be spectacular and lasting.
The booing around Pride Park after the West Ham game was very sad to hear. For sure, it was an appalling display from a group of footballers (I can`t quite bring myself to use the word ‘team`), but we really do have to put things into perspective here, and consider the ‘big picture`.
Peter Gadsby stated quite clearly in May 2006 that he was going to get us a manager who would raise the roof at Pride Park. When he got Billy Davies, it didn`t raise the roof in my mind, which just goes to show that I know very little, if anything, about football! Perhaps if anybody wishes to question that quote from Peter Gadsby, I could remind you of the second leg of the play-off semi-final? The roof was raised in Sydney, never mind at Pride Park, when Idiakez missed his penalty, and that was down to one man – Billy Davies, for putting together a team which never gave up.
Peter Gadsby, along with Billy Davies, has also been very consistent, from the beginning, with the three year plan for Derby County. At the end of the third year we were supposed to be attaining Premier League status, and that would have probably been the end of Peter Gadsby`s reign as chairman.
Except that Billy Davies wrote a different script, and showed us all what he can do without support staff, without a massive squad to choose from, and with the support of the board who backed him in January 2007 for more players. Those who booed Derby off the pitch last Saturday should be ashamed of themselves. I know that we all reserve the right to show our displeasure when things aren`t going well (alright, things are bad, and against West Ham they really were woeful), especially when we have to pay for that privilege.
But do those same people recall Peter Gadsby freezing prices for a period of time, so that season ticket holders from last season could enjoy Championship prices for this season? Do those same people recall how close we were to League One in April 2006? Fourteen months on from that and we were enjoying the most fantastic day out known to mankind at Wembley Stadium. Are people remembering that the development of Pride Plaza is aimed at making the club self-sustainable? Big picture, please, not just the ninety minutes watched. What we should all be doing now is getting right behind Derby County, however many goals are rattling the back of our net (in each game!), and enjoying the fact that there is a Derby County playing in the Premier League.
When I say playing in the Premier League, it is quite a loose term of phrase. The advent of Fox Sports Active has given us access to many of our games this season, and having watched us being absolutely destroyed by Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, West Ham, etc, I think we can safely clap ourselves on the back for being such brilliant forecasters of the game. I can`t imagine that there is a Derby fan out there who honestly thought that we would do well in the Premier League, and I stand by what I said in June about not spending to stay up – not this time around anyway.
However, the relegation battle that I thought would occur just has not happened, because we are battling with ourselves only at this stage. I thought that we did well against Portsmouth in the season opener, and I thought that we did very well against Newcastle for our only win so far. There is still hope, but only if the next three teams above us do slightly worse, and only if we can start to understand that we have to score goals to stand any chance of winning a game. Honestly, we are the only team in England which has not scored an away goal yet – and that speaks volumes.
So, this season has to be about grabbing the cash on offer to stabilise and hopefully improve our finances and to build a team for next season in The Championship -a team which will emulate what Watford are going to do this season. It also has to be about supporting Billy Davies and Derby County, especially when times are bad. Billy Davies is the key to our success (unless someone can work out how to get Roman Abramovic to change his allegiance) on a shoestring.
Very sadly, Billy Davies is a victim of his own brilliance. He delivered a couple of years too early, and now we all expect the momentum of success to continue – as we always have done, whether at the Baseball Ground or at Pride Park. However, this is the English Premier League, and to compete properly at this level, tens of millions of pounds need to be invested in the playing squad. Derby County cannot do that, and it shows.
But if I have one gripe about the position we are in, it is the amount of goals we are conceding. The scorelines are embarrassing, and we have to do something about our defence, if only to maintain some dignity in defeat. Against West Ham, I thought that Darren Moore was the only half-decent defender in our back line, and that is disgraceful.
No offence to Darren, because he has given us top quality service, and he always gives 100% effort, but for him to be the best there, at his age, is not good. Is it a good idea for Nyatanga to be on loan for the season, when a young talent such as him might well benefit enormously from a season at the top, and we desperately need good players who can stay fit? Surely it would be Derby County who would reap those rewards, come next season? I would like to see the club invest in a top quality central defender, and without any hollow laughter (please), somebody of the Igor Stimac ilk – big, mobile, tough, and a leader on the pitch.
We also have to work out what is happening up front. Now I have complete faith in Billy Davies, but I do allow myself just a few questions about some of his tactics. For instance, why did we spend so much money on Robbie Earnshaw to keep the bench warm? Big Steve Howard, for all his efforts last season, just is not Premier League material. Jon Macken, at last, has been farmed out.
Craig Fagan surprisingly, may well have something to give us at this level, but only if he keeps his feisty temperament in check. Why are we bothering with Eddie Lewis when we have Lee Holmes? Does David Jones still exist? Why does Gary Teale still get a start? And that`s enough from me, thank you! Not quite. Matt Oakley deserves a special mention, for being probably the only consistent player who can play at this level.
There really is not too much you can say about Derby County on the pitch, although ‘awful`, ‘appalling`, and ‘atrocious` are just some words which leap out at me. There is precious little to cheer right now, and this does not look like it is going to improve any time soon. Of course, whenever I make wild sweeping statements, I am normally so wrong, and therefore expect us to trounce Chelsea next week!!
No matter how bad things might seem, or actually are, we must always remember that there are those who are in a worse position. Think of West Brom, another season in The Championship. Think of Leeds, minus fifteen points at the start of the season (and good on Dennis Wise for sticking two fingers up at the establishment by taking Leeds so far up League One at this early stage of their season). Think of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United, Spurs, et al, who must have such terrible problems when it comes to selecting their best team?!?!
But we are Derby County and, given all our woes on and off the park over the last few decades, we still have tremendous support. Let`s just hope that a few short-sighted people with poor memories and a distinct lack of foresight, don`t infect those around them with their negative attitude. Derby County is in good health, despite our shocking goals against tally, and Billy Davies and Peter Gadsby did not get us to where we are at now with anything other than a positive and determined attitude. We may well go down in May 2008, but one thing I am certain of is that if Billy Davies has anything to do with it, it won`t be without a fight. We are Derby, super Derby, super Rams. Pride, passion, belief – it did it for us last season, and it will do it for us again.
Yours in Football,