Ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Pride Park (I think it’s back to being Pride Park?) I’ve been chatting to Ollie Wright, the man behind the excellent Derby County Blog.
Gary: Plenty of our flock have passed through your doors of late, Ollie. Jason Shackell, Jacob Butterfield and Chris Martin have been and gone (temporarily I think for the Beccles Brawler) but you currently have Bradley Johnson and, very recently, Cameron Jerome. Care to rank them 1 to 5 (1 being good, 5 being cr@p)?
Ollie: I threw this one to the Twitter hordes and the consensus was basically:
4. Jerome (too early to judge fairly)
5. Butterfield (very much judged)
Martin turned out to be an incredible free transfer signing for us, bagging more than 50 league goals and acting as the main man in Steve McClaren’s briefly stellar Derby team. You refer to his bolshiness and this undeniably turned some fans against him, but his record speaks for itself.
Gary Rowett has decided it’s time to move on from Martin and so even if Reading don’t take him, he’ll be available in the summer – perhaps for an emotional return to his hometown club, even?
Not sure if he’s the type of player Daniel Farke will be looking for to be honest, but stranger things…
The aforementioned Bradley Johnson is totally adored here my some… more so that many of our current crop. I never quite felt that same love in truth, but he did have one particularly brilliant season here in 2014/15. Do Rams fans feel that same love? Does he still give the ball away?
He has his merits as a player, but I simply can’t stand his carelessness in possession. His lack of ball control is terrifying, he dawdles excruciatingly, his passing sometimes makes you think there’s a wire loose in his brain. And yet, he is a goalscorer, he wins his headers and will occasionally play a great ball… it’s all there, but he just can’t seem to concentrate for 90 minutes.
That’s not going to go down well were. Some called him the ‘Norfolk Pirlo’ once. How funny and completely inappropriate was that!
How has Jerome been received?
Okay. He joined to replace Martin as a squad option and while he’s obviously not the most exciting or skilful player around, he’s certainly got more mobility than David Nugent and more power than Sam Winnall. He’s similar in profile to most of the players Rowett has signed so far – experienced ‘proper pros’, who know the job inside out and who demonstrate the right attitude. He made his first start against Brentford and scored, so the odds are he will feature again on Saturday.
I’m tempted to make a cow’s @rse and banjo joke at this point but if I do he’ll be almost certain to score tomorrow… so I won’t.
So… you going up? You’ve been there or thereabouts for a few seasons now. What’s Rowett done differently to all those who have gone before?
After all the maddening, at times surreal happenings of the past four seasons, I won’t believe we’re up until it’s mathematically certain, or the final whistle has sounded at Wembley. But we are certainly in with a massive shout this time. Several of the expected contenders (not least Norwich, of course) have seriously underachieved and that has given us a huge opportunity.
How would you describe the style of play that Rowett has instilled?
The football is undeniably less fluid than it was at its best under McClaren, but the players Rowett brought in are tough and durable, which is what you need in a gruelling Championship season. The difference has been that he’s managed to get the best out of a talented squad and moulded a team which functions well, with no glaring weaknesses.
The biggest change was a switch of formation to allow Matej Vydra to play in his natural position (number ten). Provided with the platform to do his thing, he has shown that he’s too good for this division.
He’s always struck me as one of the ‘overrated brigade’ but sounds like he’s finally fulfilling his potential. One to watch out for tomorrow no doubt.
You’ve splashed a fair bit of cash over the years (£5.5m for Tom Lawrence in the summer?). Do you have a wealthy chairman/board/benefactor?
This is a very long story, but in a nutshell, Mel Morris took over in 2015, went mental sanctioning ridiculous deals (including those for Johnson and Butterfield), but ended up getting nothing from the splurge except for a reputation as a mad axeman of managers. Only since Rowett took over towards the end of last season has stability been found.
Lawrence wasn’t cheap, but was a replacement for Tom Ince, who moved for more than that. The signings this season have been more than balanced by fees recouped.
Fair enough. We get a bit touchy around this subject. Don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’re forever destined to be self-financing.
What’s the atmosphere like at Pride Park these days? We, at Carrow Road, occasionally have a crack at the ‘how quiet can 25,000 people in a stadium be’ world record. Any fan driven initiatives round your way to crank up the fervour and/or volume?
There’s a hell of a lot going on behind the scenes, with some brilliant supporters’ groups working hard to generate a proper fan culture – without doubt, you’ll hear plenty of noise and see plenty of flags waving in the South Stand. Elsewhere, it is generally much quieter.
All around the country, match-going fans are getting older – the price of tickets see to that. But more specifically to us – because we do usually win at home, I think that can lead to a bit of complacency in the stands. Sometimes, maybe they just don’t feel like particularly ‘big games’ to get up for. – we’ve been stuck in the Championship longer than anybody else now and it’s not a particularly exciting division to be in. And also there’s a pensiveness which can creep in – I think this is to do with the repeated disappointments of recent seasons, like folk are just waiting it for all to screw up again.
Just need to pick you up on one thing there my friend. Don’t be too hard on yourselves… there is one team who has been in the second tier longer than you. This is their sixteenth season in there. Dried egg and rationing were a thing the last time they were elsewhere. They play in blue and white. We’ll be commemorating this achievement with a minute’s applause on 16 minutes next Sunday.
Anway, we’ve gone a bit Germanic; you may have heard. Seen us play this season? Thoughts?
You gave us a very good game at Carrow Road and in truth, we were a wee bit fortunate to nick the win, what with the Carson incident and your full back hitting the post. Other than that, to be honest, I haven’t been too much attention to your form because you’ve been out of the promotion picture -however, the obvious issue is a lack of goals, which I’m sure is something you guys have been very disappointed about.
Damn, was trying to go through a whole interview without mentioning the reverse fixture. It was a painful ‘ol evening, not least because it was the start of the dismal run responsible for our current mid-table mediocrity.
Final one… standard. Score prediction?
Our home form is very good, with the odd strange lapse (like losing to your old mates Ipswich). I suspect we will nick this but will be relieved if we do and very much doubt that we will romp it. 2-1 Derby.
You’re a confident bunch, I’ll give you that – but with good reason to be fair. On the premise that our away form is better than our home form I’m going for a 1-1 bum-squeaker.
Thanks to Ollie for his time. Here’s to an entertaining one… or a City win that stinks the place out.