As any Derby County fan will tell you, the last two years have been quite a roller coaster ride. A roller coaster ride comprised of a heady mixture of excitement, jubilation, exhilaration, heartbreak and last-day disappointment.
For the vast majority of the Rams’ faithful, this sustained level of excitement is a whole new experience – this sort of thing just doesn’t happen around here. It used to be the norm to expect mid-table mediocrity with the occasional flirt with relegation, followed by a summer of nothingness and watching England’s latest middle order collapse against the Aussies. However, exciting times at the iPro are certainly happening. With a solid ownership group comprising of a new chairman, who was born and bred in Derby and is a lifelong supporter, with very big pockets – the setup from top to bottom is right. How those from the red half of the East Midlands must be wishing for the same.
This summer, as well as watching England collapse at the hands of the Aussies and our valliant brit fail at Wimbledon, Rams fans have been treated to a new head coach, and at least five new players with talk of more to follow. So surely only immediate success and world domination can follow? Well… This certainly was a thought shared by all this time last year as we finally landed George Thorne and were ready to take the league by storm, and look how that turned out! Admittedly there were a lot of different circumstances that eventually ruined our season, not least a few problems with our former head coach; he did not commit to the club when everyone needed him the most and he certainly did not have a plan B, C or D, but I digress.
So let’s have a look at what the Derby faithful have got to look forward to this season. New head coach Paul Clement has been given the task of steering the Rams to the Premier League this term. A risk, some may say, as this is his first appointment as a head coach following very successful roles as assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid. Some see it as a brave and exciting appointment and if he can apply what he has learned at those clubs, then Derby could be on to a good thing.
The new players that have come in are good quality signings. The signings of Tom Ince and Darren Bent took the headlines, but the addition of Alex Pearce, Chris Baird, Scott Carson and Andreas Weimann offer vital strength to the squad. George Thorne, who hardly featured last season, and who most will remember for those very successful 12 performances before our Wembley woes, should hopefully be ready to actually start his Derby career also. As well as a new head coach we have a new assistant in John Peacock, fresh from the England setup. Although he isn’t new to the club, having been at Derby in the 90s as academy manager (where he helped to produce an acclaimed crop of players including the likes of Tom Huddlestone), it certainly feels as though he is another strong addition to our staff.
So all things are in place and the club is certainly on a solid footing. It’s now up to Mr Clement and the team to do the business on the pitch, and as we know that’s the bit that has been eluding us in previous years. Last season’s league was wide open and was just waiting for a team to take it by the scruff of the neck. Sadly, from my perspective, that team wasn’t Derby, so I’m hoping this time we can make amends. One thing we must do as fans though is stay behind the team and, more importantly, Paul Clement. We have a few tricky opening fixtures and if things don’t go our way early on then we should not panic. Here’s to another exciting season, I know I’m looking forward to it.