Well, what a week that was!
It’s quite unbelievable to think that on Boxing Day, the Rams stood on top of the league with just two defeats to their name all season. Whilst not setting the league alight with stunning football, Paul Clement and his expensively assembled squad were certainly looking like the pre-season favourites that many people had predicted.
Seven weeks later and Derby haven’t won a league game in 2016. The Head Coach has been sacked and replaced with the Under-21s coach and the performances have deteriorated into something more akin to a Sunday morning pub league side. So the question has to be asked, where did it all go wrong?
For those looking in from the outside, the sacking of Head Coach Clement seemed to be the most bizarre and unexpected dismissal of the season. Indeed for many Derby fans it came as a big shock. In fact, there has been more meltdown’s on social media over the last two weeks than there has been at Sheffield’s finest steel works.
Although there was a small minority of Rams fans who had been calling for Clement’s head for a few weeks prior, is eight months in the job for a rookie coach really enough? Chairman Mel Morris’ reasons for his departure seemed even stranger.
The day after he announced that it wasn’t about promotion, but more of a disagreement over the style of play, before then appointing Under-21s coach Darren Wassall as Head Coach until the end of the season.
Now; there is a case for Wassall’s appointment, he has done wonders with the Academy and the Under-21s in particular. But a first-team aiming for promotion in one of the toughest leagues in world football could be a task too far for him. Although, I am happy to be proved wrong!
One of the biggest challenges for our interim Head Coach is how to handle some of the big egos in the Derby dressing room. There had been talk of a split amongst the players, all of which was flatly denied in Wassall’s first pre-match interview last week.
The squad is desperately low on confidence; this being no more apparent than the way they limped to the defeat at the hands of lowly Milton Keynes Dons last weekend. So to improve that without the results coming first would be a feat for any top manager.
It all seems a bit of a mess at the moment, both on and off the pitch – with the chairman clearly choosing style over substance and arguably interfering in footballing matters. Unconfirmed rumours are now surfacing that Derby cannot afford an initial replacement for Clement because of exceeding FFP (Financial Fair Play) rules, all of which I find a bit unrealistic, but it may explain why Mel has replaced an inexperienced Head coach with an even more inexperienced one. All of this is pure conjecture of course; but with what has happened over the last few weeks, anything is possible.
I have been extremely positive all season on this blog about “the something special” that is happening to Derby at the moment and I still think, in time, all that Mel Morris truly wants for this club will eventually come to fruition. However I now don’t believe it’s going to happen this season, unless there is a massive turn around in fortunes and form.
One final thing; and this is something I believe applies to all clubs, the players have got to take a hard look at themselves. Managers come out after matches praising their players and lamenting on how hard they have worked in training and during games, but the thousands that turn up to every home and away games know when players may or may not be giving 100 per cent.
Some players in the Rams squad should know that they are not giving there all for the club at the moment, however it is always the manager who pays the ultimate price. At the moment things are not looking too healthy for the Rams as they head into the final third of the season.
But of course a winning goal in the 90th minute off Chris Martin’s backside could change our fortunes on Saturday and send us back onto a promotion chasing run!