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Why Derby must keep faith with Clough

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Paul Fletcher | 08:30 UK time, Saturday, 7 November 2009

At Pride Park.

People who question whether Derby boss Nigel Clough is too mild mannered to manage in the Championship would have done well to watch the man springing in and out of the home dugout at Pride Park on Friday evening.

With the scores locked at 1-1 between the Rams and Coventry, the stress and anxiety was clear to see as Clough bemoaned every decision that went against his team and reacted with fury whenever his players needlessly squandered possession.

It was a Clough I have not seen before. Then again, it has been a difficult few months for the 43-year-old. His team went into Friday's match a perilous 20th in the Championship table on the back of eight defeats in their previous 11 games.

I browsed through a few Derby County message boards this week and sensed that opinion had started to turn against Clough.

Clough tries to get his message acrossClough tries to get his message across

Several people were suggesting that he was being "found out" in the Championship after a decade of managing Burton Albion at non-league level.

Others argued that his policy of giving an opportunity to young players from the lower divisions, like Dean Moxey, was misguided. It simply would not work in the notoriously unforgiving and competitive Championship.

Clough's team trailed 1-0 at half-time against Coventry and were booed from the field. Rob Hulse then scored twice after the restart to give the Rams a 2-1 win.

Fans pay their money and have every right to protest against poor form, but I cannot help but think that the dissatisfaction of the Derby fans serves to highlight the gulf between expectation and reality.

When you look at Pride Park, you see a stadium that should be hosting Premier League football. Derby have a sizeable fanbase and all but the very youngest supporters are old enough to remember their team playing top-flight football.

But Derby are a team that is some way from challenging for a return to the elite level - a point that Clough has been at pains to make. It is a time for rebuilding - and it is a process that will take time.

Derby has become a watchword for instability while the club have spent most of this decade shedding managers more often than Jedward hit bum notes.

If Clough is to change that, then patience is required. The same fans who looked so emotional when the son of Brian returned to the family's supposed spiritual home must hold their nerve.

I visited Clough in the summer at the club's Moor Farm training facility and was impressed by his plans for the club. When he took over, he inherited almost 40 professionals and was in the process of trimming down the pool of players with the aim of establishing a tight-knit unit.

He explained that he wanted his players to know exactly what to do and when, and he wanted them to understand each other's roles as well as their respective strengths and weaknesses. Clough's goal was to assemble a blend of young, hungry players alongside seasoned pros. He was trying to build a team in the truest sense of the word.

However, injury and illness have meant Clough has had little opportunity to decide upon his best XI. As a consequence, the cohesion he wants is still lacking, which obviously impacts on confidence and self-belief. Instead of mounting a promotion challenge, his team have found themselves scrapping for points at the other end of the table.

"It has been a real struggle over the last few weeks," remarked Clough on Friday with genuine frankness. "We have not had many selection options."

By my rough calculations - and please do correct me if I'm wrong - Clough has fielded six different centre-half pairings, seven in the centre of midfield, and the same number in attack.

Clough observed in his programme notes prior to the Coventry game that he had 16 registered professionals unavailable for the previous match at Ipswich, with Paul Dickov his only fit striker.

"A high quantity of injuries will adversely affect form and our injury situation is worse than anyone else's in the four divisions," said the boss.

But Hulse, Paul Green and Dean Leacock returned to the starting line-up on Friday evening, and Clough is confident more will be available after the international break.

Significantly, Clough pointed out that the match against Coventry was the first since the opening day win against Peterborough that he had been able to field the midfield trio of Robbie Savage, Paul Green and Stephen Pearson.

Robbie Savage celebrates Derby's winRobbie Savage celebrates a rare win for Derby

I asked Clough whether he thought his team had turned a corner after picking up three points for the first time since they defeated Sheffield Wednesday on 3 October.

"I hope so," he said. "Only time will tell if we can press on, but if we get our players back we have the makings of a healthy squad."

Coventry are in a similar position to Derby when it comes to injuries. Manager Chris Coleman, like Clough, has reduced the size of his squad but was missing four established defenders, several key midfielders and his first-choice keeper against the Rams, while Leon Best, who scored Coventry's only goal, has just returned from injury.

The former Fulham and Real Sociedad boss believes his squad will be competitive when fully fit and says there wasn't an awful lot to choose between Coventry and Derby.

"It was a big game for both teams, they got the points and we didn't," he said.

Derby, with the always confrontational Savage emblematic of the home team's desire and commitment, probably just about deserved their win after a spirited comeback, but it was hardly a memorable match.

Still, as Clough noted: "The result sent the supporters home happy, which is something that we have not done for a while."

It is still early days for Clough, who is in his first full season in charge after taking over in early January and keeping the club in the division.

But until he has been in a position to select from a more or less fully-fit for a sustained period of time, it would be folly to pass judgement on a man who left behind the homely security of Burton and followed in his father's footsteps by trying to revive Derby.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Paul,

    Good blog, and good to see a bit of perspective from an outsider on Derby and Clough's current situation. I think your views on Clough and the start he has made are pretty much spot on.

    That said, I think you're a little harsh in your assessment of the Rams faithful, and seem to be tarnishing us all with the same anti-Nigel brush.

    If you read the message boards or speak to the fans there are still plenty more for the gaffer than against him. Most of these fans know too that there is a huge difference at the moment between where we are and where we want to be, and are prepared to wait after a turbulent few years.

    So in summary. Good read, but next time try and be accurate before you start broadcasting fans' views. I know it won't make for such a good blog, but I feel it's the least any football fan deserves.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good blog as usual Paul and good subject - i remember you covering Clough's appointment earlier in the year. In that interview i vaguely remember Nigel saying it was going to take time to rebuild the club. I'm sure this thought has not changed in his mind. Patience is the key.

    I can't see Derby pushing for promotion for at least 2 more seasons - ie the 2011-12 season - as the club was, and still is to some degree, in a complete shambles. Getting rid of players and bringing in your own is a tough job - especially the getting rid part - as often players are on high salaries that no other club can afford, so you are stuck with them eating up your wage bill. Clearly this plays a part in who you can sign - im sure Moxey is on a far lower wage than an already established Championship player - thus its not just the transfer fee but the cost of the player in the long run that has to be taken into consideration. Derby fans need patience.

    Clough built up Burton over the years and he can do it at Derby too - if the fans allow him. Fans always complain about new managers not having served their time at lower league clubs - well Clough did this - and now they moan that he can't adapt to a higher level!!! You just can't win, can you?

    Good luck to Nigel (im a Leeds fan by the way) he seems a nice bloke and i hope we will be playing them next season!

  • Comment number 3.

    Paul, I crave the day that every Derby fan will see this chapter of our history, with your common sense, in their heads!

    I've stuck with Nigel, even when a portion of my fellow fans have been calling for his head, and I will do throughout his time here, again, even when times are tough. When I see other bulletin board members calling for him to go, despite a crippling injury list that would hurt any team, my heart always sinks. As RoamingRam25 said, were not all Anti-Nigel, but our voices that support Nigel have been quietened by the Anti-Nigel "faithful", and it seems that we have no say in the matter.

    There is still a lot of work to do on and off the pitch to get us back to the Premier League, but at the moment I think some fans are naive to think that we should be in the Premiership. With all the upheaval that has taken place, mid table, safely away from the relegation zone, will do for me. Our time will come once again one day, with Nigel in the hot seat for sure.

    Thanks Paul!

    Elganio

  • Comment number 4.

    If there's one lesson that's been learned over the past 20 years or so it's that if you want to get long term results you need to stick with your manager. Football managers are not static, they learn and develop. They get better and wiser, but they must be allowed breathing space and time. Swapping and changing is the road to ruin, just ask Newcastle fans.

    The same conversation's going on at Liverpool. And with the same reply. Last year it was "Wenger must go!" and before that it was "SAF is too old and needs to retire".

    Nigel Clough is clever enough and knows what he's doing. Give him time and don't undermine in front of the players.

  • Comment number 5.

    Another excellent blog Paul. Clough took a long time to achieve success at Burton. I guess the biggest difference at Derby is having more power to sign players at a higher level. I can't recall who Derby have signed so far under Clough, do fans feel he's done well in this area?

    I feel Clough is probably (akin to his dad) an excellent man manager, his re-introduction of the much maligned Robbie Savage is proof of that. Let's hope Derby can make it to back to the Premiership one day and that Nigel can show this strength with Premiership egos.

  • Comment number 6.

    From the outside, it appears to me that Clough Jnr, in his own way, which is very different to that of his father, is in fact following his father's template for 'sorting out a football club'.

    Which reads something like:

    i. Get to the end of the first season and cull those you don't want.
    ii. Start second season with the squad you want.
    iii. Kick on from there and look to do well in season 3 and beyond.

    The only thing for Jnr is that part ii has been stymied by 16 injuries. No point blaming him for that. I'm telling you now: Arsene Wenger would struggle if he had 16 injuries at Arsenal. He wouldn't get relegated. But he might finish mid-table....

    Unless he's fallen out with the Chairman, there's no point in getting rid of him now.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think that what Clough achieved at Burton shows what a good manager he is. He may need time to adjust to the Championship but he should be given that time.
    You wrote "I cannot help but think that the dissatisfaction of the Derby fans serves to highlight the gulf between expectation and reality".
    Whenever I hear of fans wanting to replace their manager with some unnamed "better" manager, I think of Charlton Athletic and all their years of underachievement which resulted in Curbishley leaving.
    I wonder how many Charlton fans wish they could turn the clock back.

  • Comment number 8.

    Correction, I agree that Clough needs time. Only a very small number of fans booed for a short period of time, some of which were booing the referees woeful first half performance.

  • Comment number 9.

    All the Derby clowns who want Clough out can fish that old red shirt out from the bottom of your wardrobe (go on, I know it's there), and go and glory hunt elsewhere, we don't want you.

    Clough was obviously an inspired choice and is doing better than I expected. I would follow Clough even if we ended up slipping down this time. Clough IS the man. There is no doubt about it and has served an apprenticeship second to none to prove it.

    Anyone who thinks that Derby's going to get turned around in 20 games obviously Knows absolutely nothing about what our team has been through, and quite frankly, their low grade distraction is unwanted, as is their presence. Hey, if you losers want to give all the "I paid my money and blah, blah, blah", go to a Britney Spears concert and complain about the lipsynching. That's where you belong. Also, when Clough turns this club around, and he will, I don't want to see these so called 'supporters' jumping in and enjoying what has been achieved. GO NOW. NOT WANTED.

    Nigel. You've obviously got big shoulders. The important supporters are right behind you. You go mate, and if there is anything we can do to help, you just say the word.

    Up the Rams!

  • Comment number 10.

    Good blog but surely you should know by now that people who post on message boards do it as a way of expressing their anger and frustration and definitely do not represent the views of the majority?

    I don't know one Derby fan who actually wants Clough to go. He is clearly doing his best with a horrendous injury list. Ironically we play much better football than when we got promoted under the poison dwarf Billy Davies, who got us up by a mixture of grit, luck, expensive signings and a huge squad.

    A top half finish is possible when everyone is fit this season but anywhere above 18th and a home win over Forest I would take, as would most fans.

    Brian Clough finished lower than the previous manager in his first season in charge after all!

  • Comment number 11.

    Thanks paul,

    Good blog i only hope that the negative derby fans who pop up very frequently on the forums (check out therams.co.uk and pick any article for evidence)have a read it and finally come to the conclusion that it is going to take a few years for clough to build the team he wants, we need to get behind the rams not boo at half time when we don't deserve to be one nil down.

    We need to give nige time it is not going to happen overnight or in one season, lets look at the example of the wolves and mick mcarthy, given time he's built a steadily progressing squad who although aren't lighting up the premiership are giving it a good account of themselves and picking up some results on the way.

    I go to pride park every week and also as many away as i can get to and have been for years and most of the time the away atmosphere is so much better concentrating on getting behind the team rather than getting on indivduals backs when they make a mistake. I know its frustrating but you can see them trying and if we are on there backs all the time it has an affect on confidence. The most frustrating thing i find is having to bite my tounge during home games when i hear negative comments.

    I really don't want to do a "Delia" but we need to support nigel and the team and i'm sure we will see progress but its not going to happen instantly, he's going to need two, three, four seasons.

    I know there is alot of rams faithful that agree we just need to drown out the negativity and go forward as one. Financially we are sorted out we can't spend millions but we are more stable than we have been for quite some time, we have a great management team in nigel and his backroom staff and i believe we have a good squad when all fit. People complain about these lower league signings and i wonder if they even go to the games as moxey in my mind has been one of our most consistant performers and has made many cracking last ditch goal preventing tackles.

    Nigel has a plan and i'm sure it'll come good in time.
    Come on the rams!!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Nice article Paul, but I need to pull you up on the point about opinion turning against Nigel Clough. If you're relying on casual visits to Derby message boards, you need to realise that many, but not all, of the negative posts there are actually from Forest Fans.
    I'd estimate that between 5~10% of real Derby fans are unhappy with Clough to varying degrees... about half of which have been negative from the very start on the grounds of his inexperience.
    Some have turned negative over the last month or so. Frustrated by poor results and not willing to give due weight to the injury crisis that has tied Clough's hands. I don't complain - football is a passionate game, and when passions run high some people are likely to voice opinions in the heat of the moment. Its all part of being a fan.
    Let me assure you that most fans understand that the club has been in a death spiral since October 2003 when three crooks seized control of the boardroom, and that we understand its going to take a lot longer than 10 months to turn things around.
    Steady & sustainable progress is what we need, and given the unprescedented injury crisis we have suffered, many fans would be happy if we could finish with a mere 1 point more than last season.

  • Comment number 13.

    I hope the Derby chairman comes and takes a look on this forum rather than the ones dedicated to Derby then, as the support for Nigel seems pretty overwhelming!

    Fans who boo and jeer the team/managers are normally the fairweather ones who are here today and gone tomorrow. Sadly many chairman seem to care about their voices more than the faithful

  • Comment number 14.

    In our promotion season I remember us playing poorly against Sheffield Wednesday and some of the fans really berating the team. One idiot was sat behind me all game slagging off the players, really barking out his venom. We ended up winning 1-0 with a goal from an improbably angle by Dave Jones. The same fan was making more noise than anyone when the goal went in, absolutely delirious.

    Not saying that people should put up and shut up, but so many football fans are notoriously fickle it's untrue. When Nigel took over many posters were full of praise and Nigel was going to do the business. Some fans even mentioned the playoffs.

    Hopefully the board are sensible enough to realise that most fans will share your views Paul. We know we have been through the mill these last ten years. We've been a mediocre second-tier side for the majority of that time. We need stability and are doing well to balance the books. It's not the fault of Nigel or the current board that previous ones have messed our finances up. We need to get the wage bill down and keep money coming in.

    The worst thing that could happen is for the board to get impatient and try and bring in someone to turn things around ASAP. That short-termism is what's gotten us in to such a mess.

    Just to give you an idea of how poor we've been in recent years, Hulse's missed penalty last night meant that no Rams player has scored a hat-trick in the League since 1996 (Paul Simpson v Tranmere). It's going to be a tough season and will probably be a continuation of what we've endured thus far but as long as we stay up and keep the club running smoothly it's an achievement.

  • Comment number 15.

    Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be a Derby fan. There's no excuse for the booing and anti-Clough sentiment some vocal idiots have been expressing. It's been impossible with the injuries -- and will still be difficult for some time, because we've had no stability -- yet, we're not in the drop zone. That's a miracle.

    Nigel has sorted out some of our big, longer-term problems, and we must be grateful. Look what happened last time when we got the "quick fix" and snuck into the Premiership: our name beside a very unwelcome record -- and we nearly dropped *two* divisions before he saved us.

    He took his time at Burton, and left them not only with success but in fantastic shape to deal with it. He's the right manager for our club, I trust for a long time.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think there is a perception that Nigel Clough is mild mannered, and must therefore be soft with his players and the club. I don't believe this is correct. I believe him to be determined, strong in his beliefs, and clear in his objectives. I get the impression that the players understand that Derby require hard-work on the pitch, with cohesion and a team ethic along the lines of the England rugby team in the years leading up to the 2003 World Cup. This will take time, and it requires equal determination, understanding and support from the fans.

  • Comment number 17.

    At last...a thoughtful piece of journalism that appreciates the issues the Rams have been facing. The injuries have been key but we also need to remember the state of the squad Nigel inherited and the financial shackles he is operating under. Too many over paid, under performing journeymen which he has, quite rightly, shown the door to.

    The jury is still out on his investments - but Barker looked superb last night (a snip at £400k?) and both Moxey and Buxton (bargain basement stuff and young enough to improve) do not look at of their depth. Lastly, I think Porter is key and will bring pace and goals.

    Yes, Nigel needs this season and next to make an impression. Not sticking with him and his honest, professional approach to the job would be very short sighted. I think the American ownership value what they've got!

  • Comment number 18.

    I think the comments made by most people are very fair and yes Nigel clough needs time to re-build the squad. I cannot understand why Derby have so many injuries which are the worst in the league. The main issue for me is not why they are not promotion candidates because like most reasonable people I understand that it takes time and patience, what I do bot understand is why take people on loan if we are supposed to be re-building a new team. There are many players out there, but we tend to attract the older players with a short life span. Please tell me if my comments are out of order, but I do not se any rebuilding or plan for the future. that said I will always be a DC supporter, but like others I have a view on the club.

  • Comment number 19.

    OK, OK, OK, enough already. Hands up - I should make it crystal clear I'm not talking about every Derby fan. And to those who might have taken slight offence because you have never wavered in you believe in Clough - sorry.

    Nonetheless, it is not just an assumption based on massageboards - the booing at the break was all too real, as was Clough's sense of relief as he gave his thoughts on the match afterwards.

  • Comment number 20.

    Oh dear I must be one of these evil negative Derby fans who must be kicked out of the club.

    Interesting reading Paul. Some good points made. However I'm not sure Clough is telling the truth when he said that against Ipswich Dickov was his only fit striker. This is clearly untrue. Does he know who Prijovic and Ojamaa are they play and score for the reserves and are on pro contracts. Clough seems to have a problem with picking these players, he would rather have an empty bench which is frankly a bizarre decision.

    I was against Clough's appointment for me it was a romantic appointment. He did ok with Burton over ten years but he didn't really pull up any trees. If you had seen Nigel's cv without the name Clough on it. It would have gone straight into the reject pile. Sorry but thats the truth.

    However now he is our boss and the board are going to back him so whilst I disagree with his appointment I am going to back his teams. However I have to say I have been less than impressed with some of his decisions thus far. He has failed to appoint an experienced assistant who knows the championship, someone who can guide him and help him learn at this level. And someone who has extensive contacts which will benefit Derby in the transfer market. I am not going to suggest any names as it is for Nigel to pick someone he could work with.
    His team selection have at times been bizarre regardless of the injury situation. As I mention above the selection for the Ipswich bench and last nights bench no strikers, yet strikers were available.
    Some players have been brought back to early and gone down to repeat injuries (Green and Addison).
    Playing players out of position when there have been options. I know we have a huge injury list but some decisions seem to be cut off your nose to spite your face decisions when there have been alternatives.

    There is more but I know I will be labelled a moaner and not welcome at the club I have supported for 25 years. But for the record I never boo the team, I get behind them and then question the decisions after the game.

    I have to say that I respect the opinions of the pro-clough fans however they don't respect anyone who isn't defending Clough. Also a lot of the so called negative fans articulate their arguments much better and back them with facts. A lot of pro Clough fans are content to just believe. Without evidence as to why we should believe.

    I just want Derby to do well and as Clough is being given time, I hope he proves me wrong.

  • Comment number 21.

    Preaching to Derby fans about reality is rather rich in my opinion. How many other clubs have recently been bled dry by their owners, finished with an embarrassingly low points total in the most high-profile league in the world and endured an extremely disappointing start to this season?
    I believe all my fellow Rams fans are well aware of the 'reality' of following this team we all love.
    I do not know which team you support Paul, however I am convinced, if you check through our recent history, that Rams fans are seen as extremely tolerant - check out how the worst manager in our history (Paul Jewell, statistically) was treated.
    Booing at half time? I heard some, mainly directed at the referee in my opinion. Probably some disappointment, which is just what Nigel felt, if your article is to be taken as gospel, "reacted with fury whenever his players needlessly squandered possession."
    Your main premise of 'give him time' is one I, and I believe, most Rams fans adhere to. However criticizing a set of fans to achieve this is lazy journalism I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 22.

    The basis for your blog is spot on - Nigel must be given time! If it takes him two, three or even four seasons to get this right, get it right he will AND what he puts in place will be built to last.
    The process that he is currently implementing is to get a solid foundation (for the whole of the club), at the right price and then to build on it from a position of strength not like Laurel and Hardy who have gone up the road. What they built was a house of straw, Clough is building a house of solid stone!
    I agree with many of my fellow Rams that the fans that I speak to do have faith and will keep it. Every club has people that will always be pessimists (and lets face it they have been right over the past 9 or ten years - a wonderful day at Wembley excepting). But what Nigel - and his team who understand the club and the East Midlands - will do is make this club a force - not in the way Man Utd or Chelsea are but in a way where we more than compete with the likes of Blackburn, Bolton, West Ham and even Everton. We are a Premiership Club but we aint a Premiership team and Clough will change that.
    So keep the faith and come on ewe rams!!

  • Comment number 23.

    The Rams fans' frustration is with being at the foot of the table not because we are not fighting for a top 6 place. Everyone knows that Derby are re-building and it will take, in my estimation, 5 years to create a squad good enough to challenge for promotion and stay in the Premier division if achieved. This is because football in the top tier is all about money - not sport - and clubs like Derby,and there are a few of them, will never have enough cash to buy a successful side so you have to be able to create one. In that respect some progress has been made and we now have manageable squad and stable finances with only the £15M mortgage unpaid - which will be completed in 2015.I personally would allow NC the time to create such a situation but the only 'black mark' against him so far is the injury situation which should have been managed 6 months before and not allowed to fester into a crisis. It was quite ludicrous to have a player - Chris Porter - undergoing surgery only 3 weeks before the start of the new season when the operation could, and should, have taken place some 5 months previously.Having personally questioned Nigel on the subject in March/April at the Fans' Forum he assured me he was happy with the position when I felt the situation was a little worrying even then - some 4 months later it became worse and a further three months on became critical in the team's ultimate performance levels. They have the players, when fit, to compete effectively at this level however the failure to deal with injuries in the first instance was a critical factor in the team's subsequent performances thereafter. In the depths of the season, around New Year, it is always a strong possibility that injuries and suspensions will start to become a factor in the plans of all clubs and it is worrying that we are struggling so early in the season when this situation could have been avoided in most cases. Hopefully the New Year will see a return to a fully fit squad and the Rams will then turn in decent performances to hopefully finish around 11th or 12th place which will be progress but could have allayed a lot of fraying supporter's nerves if dealt with decisively earlier in the piece.

  • Comment number 24.

    Matt, I know of a good number of supporters who agree with your views regarding Nigel or are sceptical to say the least! I am prepared to give the man time because we have cut our own throats with ridiculous appointments and "throwing cash at it" in the past 15 years or so - Lionel Pickering lost a personal fortune!! Paul Fletcher is correct in respect of how many managers we have had and how many have eventually failed. Stability is the by-word after all that stupidity and we now have stable finances and a team, when fit, that can compete effectively in the CCC. No-one is claiming a 'Top 6' side yet but I feel that optimism can be a reasonable conclusion to draw from the evidence over 10 months or so of Nigel's management. A long way to go? You bet but I feel that there will be good times to come in the future and our only debt will be paid off by 2015(mortgage on PP)- after the past 15 years I call that progress. I have been present since 1947 and so have seen many years of bleak finances bordering on oblivion (1984),and 'begging bowls' at the turnstiles at the old Baseball Ground, and I can honestly tell you I never wish to see such days again in my lifetime. At least the younger generation of fans have a team to watch which was almost not the case in those dark days.

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm certainly not a Derby fan, and looking from the outside it seemed like a sentimental appointment to me, because of the success his dad had there.

    10 years at a conference side, and only in his final year assembling a side capable of promotion, were not the crudentials to manage a Championship side, who had realistic ambitions of getting back in the Premiership.

    That being said I wish him the best of luck.

  • Comment number 26.

    Just back from watching the mighty Cruz Azul of Mexico City. A certain Emmanuel Villa now has 16 goals in 16 games and looks every inch the complete centre forward. :-)

  • Comment number 27.

    I agree with most of the comments re Fan boards - for most of the moaners the internet is about as close as they get to Pride Park on a regular basis. Journalists should work a bit harder to check the pulse of the club.

  • Comment number 28.

    Thanks for all the comments - and it is good to see so many people sticking up for Clough while bemoaning the group of people who seem to have been bandied together as the "message boarders".

    Not sure I would accept the charge of lazy journalism. Though I certainly wasn't going to go out to do a large-scale survey, I did alot of asking around and browsing to gather a fair number of anecdotal findings.

    I also reckon there are a lot of non-Derby fans out there who are convinced Clough will fail. They, like everybody else, must wait to draw their conclusions.

  • Comment number 29.

    Paul a couple of points :)

    1) There is an unfortunate problem when using the message boards (606 is notorious for opposition fans creating false user names) that "the empty box rattles the most".

    Im not sure if you have a "phone-in" show for your club but Radio Derby very kindly provide a monday night show where fans can voice their opinions. Said show has the phones lines jammed when we lose and is a dead as a monty python parrot when we win.

    Nigel Clough went on said show a month or so ago to offer his side of the problem and mystery of mysteries all of the "clough out" brigade were silent.

    2) Many folk on the comments seem of the erroneous concept that Clough took over a Conference side and took 10 years to do anything. Locally of course many Derby fans follow Burton results (and many more since Pesch took over) and know that Clough was at Burton 10 years and took a team from the Dr. Martens league to the conference then effectively into the league, competing with full time clubs as a part time team.

    Every season his side improved their league position and thats all that can be asked of a manager.

    Of course the appointment has a nostalgic feel to it and most football fans are nostalgic folk but Clough has more managerial experience than - for instance - Roy Keane at Ipswich.

    Where did Sir Alex Ferguson begin his management career? im sure he wasnt handed the Man U job as his first appointment.

    3) Im not sure your last comment (28) is wholy accurate, from my experience meeting many fans from around the country the general opinion is one of positivity, most say "I hope you stick with him" and the sentiment is one of "in the future he will succeed". Also there seem to be few who have a bad word for him which after Billy Davies (who could wind up an empty room) and "Porno" Paul Jewell well its a nice change :)

    Its a good blog tho and nice to see Derby getting a bit of press, honestly tho, hand on heart, if you support your team there is NO place for jeers and boos. If your team has had the best of the possession the majority of the chances and been denied a clear penalty there is ABSOLUTELY NO excuse for it.

  • Comment number 30.

    PS James (26) I think that says more about the standard of football in Mexico than Emmanuel Villa.

    I liked Tito but he wasnt a 2 million pound centre forward.

  • Comment number 31.

    Your blog isn't quite as objective as you'd like us to think. Because of who his father was, Nigel will be given as much time as he needs by the club to try make it happen at Derby. Would any conference manager from Burton have been appointed manager at Pride Park had his surname not been Clough? Very unlikely. And would you have commented this time about events at Derby had the manager not had the surname of Clough? Again, unlikely. So forgive my questioning the integrity of your journalism, but I think your comments on this blog ain't quite as balanced and objective as you'd want us believe.

  • Comment number 32.

    Re: the standard of football in Mexico.
    It in no way matches the premier league nor the top half of the championship but it is slightly better then the lower half. Villa left because his wife was unhappy. His 16 goals have come in a variety of different ways and against a variety of different and indifferent defenders.
    In recent years Mexican teams have regularly reached the final and even won the Copa Libertadores. It is not all dross over here by any means and I could not see Robert Hulse managing anything like the same strike rate. In recent years, Mexican-based players and the quality of football that they experience doesn't seem to be a problem for PSV Eindhoven, Benfica, Lyon, Deportivo La Coruna, Stuttgart, Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic and Sunderland; perhaps Derby have seen greater success in recent times.

  • Comment number 33.

    Paul,

    Good to have an opinion from a detached observer. Interesting observation about seeing a different side to Clough, for the past few months have indeed been a learning process for him as well & just as frustrating.

    However, I think Clough is deserving of some criticism. We started the season with a formation (4-5-1) which the team struggled to adapt to. The messageboards do act as a kind of release for frustration; there was a kind of inevitable fatalism with regards to the Ipswich result. Hulse as a striker benefits from having a strike partner.

    But I do think our fans try to be as understanding as possible/within reason. The Cardiff debacle was terrible, but then we lost one defender, had another making his loan debut and saw another come in to deputise midway. The defence has actually been one of our best performing units.

    As for Ipswich, in a tight game, our injury-depleted squad did not have enough on the subs bench in contrast to Ipswich which meant they could change things at the right time to give themselves new impetus. On Friday, we were the recipients this time of a team experiencing a similar injury crisis.

    Nigel Clough has been hamstrung (suitable pun) by a dreadful injury crisis. I look at Nottingham Forest and the impact Paul McKenna has had on their midfield. For me, Paul Green is a vital player and it can't be purely coincidence that Green has been absent mostly during our erratic form since March up to now. I was frustrated with our first half against Coventry, was it wise to start Paul Green after his injury? but in the second half we produced a good team display and Green made a couple of forward runs from midfield switching the ball to the flanks, that an ageing Savage, influential as he still is, is no longer capable of.

    As for reality & expectations, just to stay in this division, full stop. I never expected a promotion challenge, but am weary of yet another relegation battle because our squad, when fully fit, is a lot better than the George Burley squad that only survived on the penultimate match in 2004.
    There are comparisons in that Burley's squad kicked on the season after.
    Burley took over a side recently relegated from the PL and in freefall. It took another disappointing season, with a young sixteen year old in midfield called Huddlestone, before Burley saw progress.

    I've often said it will get worse before it gets better, but Clough should really only be judged once he has more of his injured players back, especially the more influential such as Green & Steve Davies.

    Personally, I enjoy being in the Championship due to its competitiveness and the range of sides one faces, it is a fascinating league and, after our disastrous experience in the PL, I would only like Derby to go up with a good nucleus of players capable of making the transition (Coppell's Reading). We have to stabilise and become a good CCC club first like Cardiff and develop a football culture across the club whilst attempting to run our finances prudently. This will take time.

  • Comment number 34.

    At Patrick Nolan number 17 - you payed £900k for Barker, not £400k.

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm still laughing at the sight of all those t-shirts flying onto the pitch when they got done by QPR at home. Funniest thing I've seen in football for a long, long time! Youtube is great!!

  • Comment number 36.

    I agree Nigel Clough needs time. The team will always have my support through the good and bad times. Let's hope the win against Coventry is a platform to build with some players returning from injury. Thank god McEveley survived his shocking story.

    Derby County Football Club Through and Through.
    Good blog, Paul Fletcher.

  • Comment number 37.

    Another sensible blog Paul, and one which the vast majority of Derby fans would agree with. Good on you for actually bringing a bit of rationality to the debate!

    Fans' frustrations stem from a passion for the club to do well in the most part but I also think you can see evidence of the wider social trend to want it all and want it now. You can see from the ones who scream and shout when they don't get their way, e.g. being 0-1 down at home to a poor Coventry side on Friday. The actions of those few are also indicative of our blame society, the view that someone always has to be held accountable if things aren't working out as we want them to. Most fans who take this view tend to vent their disapproval on the board who 'haven't' invested etc. Sadly, there's not a great deal we can do about these so called fans but that's just life!

    I'm not for a minute suggesting that Nigel is without blame, or the finished article. He clearly isn't, what he is though, is a work in progress. As he develops his skills, so the club will improve its fortunes. He's made mistakes, some slightly strange team selections, the odd random comment etc. but no manager in history has just appeared on the scene as the finished article.

    Most fans, you'll be pleased to hear, know and understand the Derby will never be an international force like we were in the 70s. We know that it's going to take a lot of time, effort and good fortune to even stabilise what has been a bit of a sinking ship to be honest. Our expectations are pretty modest for the most part and if we finish one place higher than last season and the club as a whole is mving forward, I for one will be delighted.

    I believe Nigel is the right kind of character to be able to pull off this kind of rebuilding. Why? Because he's an intelligent and perceptive guy and at the same time he isn't scared of calling a spade a spade. He has all the qualities you need to be a 'modern' manager but there's a chip off the old block about him that just tells you he won't suffer fools or jump through hoops if he doesn't believe in it.

    He's starting from the ground up and he's not just building a team, he's building a club. I sincerely hope that he's given all the time and rope he needs to tie it all together because when it clicks, and I believe it will, it will be the best thing that has happened to this club since his father pulled it all together in the early 70s.

 

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