In a broad sense this season has been rather inexplicable – I’ve highlighted it recently and the frustrations of many Derby fans can only serve to emphasise the growing feeling of despondence. But no-one knew the worst was yet to come.
The recent 3-3 draw with Rotherham – a game where Derby lead 3-0 with eight minutes to go – has completely unhinged the entire structure of the club in a figurative sense; laying bare a dressing room with little confidence and a manager who has struggled to grasp the tactical requirements of the division. The physical manifestation has been even more pronounced, Harry Redknapp has arrived in a high-profile and magnificently odd decision that has probably come too late regardless.
A neutral onlooker will take pleasure from the fact that a team with so much money and promise has managed to grasp disappointment from the jaws of hope in a season of turmoil and despair. Indeed, and in poignant fashion, as George Osborne declares a budget focusing on widespread cuts to make up for slower economic growth, Derby will be looking to cut a player base that has failed to live up to their own ambitions. The feelings of disaster that are harboured by a growing number of fans should nevertheless be tempered against the failings of teams like Charlton and Bolton, who are slipping closer to League One obscurity. However, there is no hiding that the objectives that were set this season have been almost unanimously unmet, with little chance of a late revival to grant the possibility of them still being achieved.
Aside from the current rumblings of discontent we have the small matter of an East Midlands derby to look forward to at the weekend. A game that is normally talked about for weeks before by both sets of fans has managed to slip under the radar. Both Derby and their bitter rivals from down the A52 have been dealing with their own woes that have contributed to a muted build-up to the weekend’s game. Nottingham Forest’s chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi sacked Dougie Freedman at the weekend, becoming the sixth manager to be sacked in under four years since he took over. Couple that with constant visits to court over unpaid bills and winding up orders, as well as their transfer embargo, and surely things are looking better at Derby than at the other end of the Brian Clough Way. On the flip side, it was not long ago that a big-spending Forest were one of the favourites to finally achieve promotion and Derby were struggling to maintain a mid-table spot…
As for the game itself, well there is no bigger game in the footballing calendar for the fans of either club. Another sell-out has already been announced which is of no surprise, although you get the feeling that years of mediocrity for both teams has lessened the importance of the fixture recently. Albeit, the euphoria of winning such a heated contest could serve to kick-start a campaign that has never really got going for either team, though a brief analysis shows that the results have had little effects over the past two seasons on the following form of either team.
Nevertheless in Derby’s case, we have not won the fixture since the 5-0 thrashing that culminated in Billy Davies’ sacking around two years ago. With both teams going into the fixture with interim managers in charge, it could be the case that one of the teams enters the next match with another man at the helm. Don’t forget that there is the added spice of an ex-Ram in charge of Forest and an ex-Forest and Derby player in charge of the Rams. There is certainly never a dull moment in these games and I don’t see this fixture being any different – but there is a feeling that the result of this game will be inconsequential in a season of parallel disappointment for both teams.