Derby County fans have seen it all. Even the younger generation, proudly donning their bright white home shirts and singing about Steve Bloomer and the Baseball Ground, despite having never been there or truly know about him, have endured many more ups and downs than your regular football fan.
From snatching defeat from the jaws of victory when pummelling a hapless QPR team to death for 89 minutes, only to be downed by a wild, last gasp haymaker out of absolutely nowhere in a Wembley PlayOff final for the Premiership three seasons ago, to again coming oh so close when nearly performing a miracle at Hull, only to watch them subsequently gain promotion themselves, to then having to endure one of your biggest rivals performing THE miracle of all time in winning the damn EPL (I mean Leicester City?? Come on….), then for seasons having laughed at the managerial circus acts at the City Ground and Elland Road, our two other main rivals, we descend into absolute managerial chaos ourselves….going from McLaren to Clement to Wassall to Pearson to Powell, back to McLaren…..and finally to Gary Rowett, the present derriere on the Pride Park hotseat….all within the space of 2 seasons.
Oh yes…and let’s not forget either the lovely Premier League record that the Rams proudly hold…11 points from 38 games. The lowest of the low.
But, despite this, the Rams remain one of the biggest Clubs outside of the Premier League – indeed only Newcastle and Aston Villa boasted a larger average home gate than Derby last season, and next season, the masses will again cram themselves into Pride Park, with hope now about on a par with expectation that, finally, Derby will escape the Championship prison and return to the Premier League party, and dine – even if just for a season or two – on the financial feast that is served up to those lucky 20 teams. As, let’s face it, apart from around 7 or 8 teams, that’s all the other teams are really there for…..yes, even you Leicester City.
So why will, or should, Rowett succeed where others have failed – most so miserably?
Well, the truth is……blind faith. As well as Rowett has done previously at Burton Albion and most recently Birmingham City, it’s all relative success – and nothing like what is hoped for at Derby. Rowett inherited a squad full of names that have adorned the Championship for ages now….Keogh, Hughes, Nugent, Ince, Johnson, Butterfield…..yet in amongst all of these names, it was our keeper Scott Carson who swept the end of season Player Awards and seems to be about the only player that Derby fans are in agreement about should be kept on. “Young, eager, hungry players are what Derby need” cried Rowett as the season ended…..and made 32 year old central defender Curtis Davies his first signing, from Hull City. A player that made more interceptions in the EPL last season than anyone….well playing in defence for Hull City, you’re gonna have plenty of chance to do that aren’t you, so not exactly a huge franking of form there!!
Currently, Derby County are being linked strongly with Andre Wisdom, a full back from Liverpool who spent a season on loan at Derby in the 2013/14 campaign, and did well. His subsequent loan to West Bromwich Albion, Norwich and most recently Salzburg were not as successful, and he seems to have dropped off Jurgen Klopp’s radar, so it seems likely we shall see “Norman” back in a Rams shirt. As usual, we have been linked with a host of players from the Scottish Premier League, which is a traditional Derby hunting ground. Also seemingly on the Rams shopping list is Jackson Irvine, an Australian international who has impressed at Burton Albion this season, as well as George Boyd, the enigmatic but talented Burnley player – but at 31, is he really that ‘young, eager and hungry’?
Of more relevance to Derby County fans though, is who will be going out of the door. There is more than a general consensus that too many players are just a bit too comfortable at Derby, and this showed on the field last season. A lot of the intrigue surrounds, as it has done for what seems decades now, Will Hughes, and exactly what Derby County are wanting to do with him. Three seasons ago it was Liverpool and Arsenal looking at him…..now it’s the likes of Brighton and Watford. Hughes remains a classy player, but surely now is the time to either commit to him and build a team around him, or cash in on him whilst there is still a decent market for him?
It would be no surprise to see the likes of Darren Bent, Jason Shackell, Nick Blackman, Andreas Weimann, Alex Pearce – maybe even Johnny Russell and Ikechi Anya moved on. Richard Keogh is strongly tipped to go to Sheffield Wednesday and Thomas Ince continues to draw attention, though is not really expected to leave. It would also be no surprise to see Chris Martin return to Derby and become our main man in attack again.
Ifs, buts and maybes reign supreme then currently for all Rams fans. It promises to be an intriguing summer, in what will be another highly competitive and frenetic Championship season. Who knows what starting XI will take to the field in August in those bright white Derby County shirts….but what is definite is that there will be 33,000 fans hoping that this season will be the one where Derby finally clamber back into the Premier League and then……do a Leicester? Well, maybe 12 points should be our first, more real, target.