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The Damned (Scunny) United: Clough On Watch, But Why?

Don't make the same mistakes of the past...

Don't make the same mistakes of the past...

In a weekend hit by weather misery here in the UK thanks to the government’s clear lack of contingency, Derby did manage to get their game against Scunthorpe United kicked off but in hindsight would rather they’d followed the lead of many of the other English clubs decision. The Irons battered Derby 4-1 at Pride Park thanks to a lot of lack lustre defending from the Rams as home fans watched their side crumble from start to finish. Although Derby (who were 2-0 down at half time) did get back into the game after half time, largely down to the introduction of the coveted Kris Commons, they lacked any sort of commitment and were often statues when Scunthorpe pressured them. Listening to BBC radio five live phone in the evening I heard one Derby fan e-mail in his disgruntlement at Nigel Clough’s management of the team and suggested that he wasn’t capable of taking the club forward. Derby fans seem divided on Clough but I personally think he deserves time. You can say “you don’t know what it’s like being a fan of this football club” but I have my reasons.

All season Derby have had a depleted squad and that isn’t just through injuries. There has been some confusion over the American investors of the club and what they have actually offered the club. General Sports & Entertainment Ltd have so far provided little in substantial funds for the Rams and Clough and the wage bill has been constantly slashed. The threat of financial troubles over Derby seems to be present all to often in the clubs recent history, Billy Davies (who is now manager of bitter rivals Nottingham Forrest) quit after getting the club to the premiership due to the boards reluctance to provide funds for new players. That wasn’t the USA group that currently own the club either, so the club needs some serious investment to balance the books.

This past summer the club sold a number of players and brought few in for as little as possible, a definite move to slash the wage budget at the club. Fans have been unhappy with the signing of Jake Buxton, a player who was a key figure in Burton Albion’s climb up the leagues when Clough was in charge and in all honesty has struggled to adapt to the pace of a much higher league. This January could be a tough one for the team, with a number of fellow league teams aware of Derby’s clearout, particularly Wolves and Ipswich keeping an eye on Kris Commons and Jay McEveley respectively.

Then there are the issue of injuries and older players. Robbie Savage is 35 now and although a prominent figure in the football league I don’t think he can play at this level any more. But who to replace him with? Lee Henrie who is injury prone and also getting on in years? I don’t think so but that is what Clough has to work with and he doesn’t have much choice because money talks loudest in football. If you were in Clough’s position, sure it doesn’t look great that you’re just above the relegation zone but wouldn’t you want sympathy because of the resources available to you? Also look at Kris Commons coming back into the Derby fold all of a sudden, looking dangerous and confident; Clough has been hit by a number of injuries to key players.

It should be reminded that Clough only got Burton promoted in his fourth season at the club and that was after the club had sorted itself out and was finally able to pour a little money in. Four years might seem a long time but that’s what it can take in this business and Derby definitely need some sorting out. Clough is just trying to battle this situation out and I believe he’s doing a great job at it, last season Derby narrowly avoided relegation thanks to Clough coming in and managing a poorly formed side created by Paul Jewell. So far I don’t think Clough has been given any substantial funds to buy players since he’s been in charge.

Its frustrating being at the bottom of the table and seeing your side lose games but that is just the cards you’re dealt. Derby don’t have the depth or talent the likes of Newcastle, West Brom or Cardiff have and that’s why they are in the situation they are in. Sacking Clough does nothing to solve that problem, it’s just a difficult period and the club needs investment from somewhere else. I know the Derby fans are some of the most passionate supporters I’ve met and I hope that they can see it from this viewpoint as well. An already stretched wage bill will delve more into the red if you sack Clough and his back room staff and then bring in someone else. Would someone else really make the situation better? I don’t think so. We all know what the last Clough achieved after leaving Derby over an arguement over funds…

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  1. Rob McCluskey

    January 11, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I went to Scunthorpe last season to watch Scunthorpe V Brighton when they were in league one (my mate is a Seagull) and I can remember quite distinctly Brighton were not allowed to get a shot on target away in the entire match while Scunny went about trying to create chances and it seems they’ve carried that strategy on in the Championship so all credit to Scunthorpe!

    It would be a disaster for Derby to go down, although looking at the likes of Leicster, Norwich and Charlton they’re doing a good job at bouncing back at the first time of asking (in Leicster’s case they did with flying colours). Saying that I don’t know who else would come in and not do what Clough did when he got appointed, get a lot of wins thanks to the new manager syndrome and then survive at the end because the squad is very lacking.

    I think beyond this FA cup tie, the club has 3 games they can really win. I know Forrest are in form, but that goes out the window in the big local ties. This next game against Peterborough really must get 3 points on the board or Clough might be gone. I just hope he can stake a step back, instill a bit of discipline into the team and get them playing again, a big performance against Millwall could even help now (although i’m sure a cup run is the last tihng on Derby fans mind).

  2. Andy

    January 11, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Negativity breads negativity. Clough always seems to come across as down and out. From the point of view of a Scunny fan, we have played worse teams and been totally battered this season ( Sheff. Wed. & Plymouth ) but Nigel Adkins always has a positive spin ( weve got a small squad and everone is working hard for the team bla bla bla….. ) which is clearly well rehearsed to maintain a stable mentality. Adkins and his backroom staff have the ability to take average League 1 players and keep them motivated week in week out to play at the higher level. Ok, we can all see that we are being played off the park at times but our players stick at it and are hauling in some points. Derby seem to have too many egos and not enough ‘ let’s go ‘. Savage is more Pundit than Kick it and would not be entertained at Glanford Park. Commons seems to be a Big Game player and clearly has the talent and ability to be a driving force in your team BUT does he do it week in week out. Derby have great history ( Ted McMinn 😉 THE TIN MAN ) and tradition and it would be sad to see them having to ply their trade in League One but I fear that unless the mentality at ‘ PRIDE ‘ Park improves You’ll be taking the place of Leeds United next season.

  3. Neil

    January 11, 2010 at 2:29 am

    The longer Clough stays, the more we as a club are investing in his development as a manager. If the club wants him to go then he should go sooner rather than later, otherwise the next club he manages will benefit from our investment. No point keeping him until the end of Jan, IMO. We knew he was lacking experience at this level when he came, but we all got caught up in the sentiment surrounding his family name. Now that misty-eyed nostalgia has been given the boot, we need to keep calm. If Clough was an experienced manager with the record he has now after 1 year, then I think it’d be right to be asking questions. But he’s a work in progress, just as the club is at the moment.

    Clough wanted the squad trimmed to 26, not 20 – 20 is too small. I think it was up around 35 when he arrived, which is way too big for an under-acheiving Championship side, so it had to be cut regardless of how well the team were or were not playing or what the financial state of the club was/is.

    Personally, I don’t want Clough to go, but at the same time I’m baffled by what’s going on. As Alan mentioned in his previous post, playing 2 big men up front (Porter and Hulse) and a narrow midfield 4 (i.e. no wingers to get the crosses in for the big men) was never going to work, so where did that particular tactical innovation come from? True, Clough changed it at half time, but only to bring on Commons as a different style of forward, so still persisting with the narrow midfield. Green did ok as a right-side midfielder last season, but has looked well out of sorts out there since he came back from injury this time. Savage is all effort and no product – the rumour persists that it’s a clause of his contract that he plays every game, surely that can’t be true, can it? On Saturday, it seemed like we were trying to play 1-touch football in midfield without ever getting the ball under control. The result? Possession constantly lost, no-one to put their foot in to win it back, Scunny allowed to pass through midfield and straight through our slow and inexperienced back 4. They could easily have scored 6. Things have got to turn around on the pitch, and quickly. There’s no way he can survive if performances like we’ve seen in the last 3 home matches continue.

    Clough said soon after he first came to Derby that there were too many players not doing the basics right – particularly defenders not concentrating on defending (Albrechtsen got singled out on a couple of occasions). Well, it doesn’t look like there’s been any improvement….

  4. Shakira

    January 11, 2010 at 12:32 am

    As a fellow Rams fan I say I have to agree totally with Alan. I wanted Clough to succeed at Derby when he was appointed but it’s become clear that he isn’t up to the task of managing a CCC team. I bear no ill will towards him but his signings and his tactics, or lack there of have made it clear we will go down with him in charge. His signings other then Barker and Porter have been flops. Deeny is not going to give Bywater any competition for the number one shirt, Buxton has looked shambolic and you can see he isn’t ready for the speed of CCC, Moxey has his games but for the most part he hasn’t adapted either. Livermore was a flop loan signing as well. I wish Nigel the best but I think for the club it would be best if he left Derby.

  5. Rob McCluskey

    January 10, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Thats no bother Adam, I love to hear other peoples views especially when it’s from a fans view

    From what I gathered there is a massive divide in the Derby fans at the moment, it’s either you’re completley against Clough or completely against the board and no one seems to fall in the middle. Clough may have been the cheap option but thats just the thing, there is no money at Derby. I think theres quite a few players who are starting to get on in years and are maybe losing their edge, I definetley think that if a good bid comes in for Hulse it should be taken, he isn’t reliable enough to get the goals.

    In my honest opinion, there isn’t much form at the moment and that needs to addressed. On another note i’ve said time and time again to people throughout the season ‘Ipswich won’t go down’ and now they’re getting past a difficult situation. I think ther same about Derby, I don’t think they will go down.

    I’d like to see Clough given the rest of Jan atleast to make some more signings on loan if possible, I know Nicky Hunt has come in with a bit of experience which can only mean good things for the defence.

    I hope you don’t mind me asking, if Clough does stay and does keep you up this season, would you want to see him go in the summer?

    • Alan

      January 11, 2010 at 4:11 am

      I think the divide shifted in the favour of the “out” camp after the Scunthorpe game, it did feel like a significant game in terms of how people feel about the manager. I think a heavy defeat against Forest at the end of the month will see an almost complete shift.
      I’d agree re: selling Hulse if a good big came in but he rejected the move to ‘Boro and rumour is he is very settled in the area and I think only a move from a Premier League side would convince him to leave. What is certain is that we won’t get anything like the £4.25m ‘Boro offered again.

      There’s a lot of people saying we won’t go down but after some of the performances I’ve seen recently I think it’s a very real possibility. Even Commons has come out in the paper today and admitted it’s a relegation battles – the club has never admitted it before, maybe this will be the kick up the backside some of the players need. I hope so.

      Hunt looked good, but until we can put out a consistent line-up in defence it won’t improve. Leacock’s best consecutive run of appearances since 2008 is 8 – he needs to be sold, he’s already been nicknamed LeaCrock. Barker, never injured before he came to Derby, has been playing with a knee tear and has missed the last few games and missed almost all the start of the season. I’m not sure I trust Clough’s overall transfer market judgement (Buxton is appalling, Croft is so bad he doesn’t even make the 17 anymore, Deeney is NO competition to Bywater, Hendrie has made so little impact I forget he’s here, Moxey has faded badly after a bright start) enough to want him to bring anymore players in. His best signing was Dickov – a 37 year old who can’t get in Leicester’s reserve team!

      As I said earlier, I have no problem with a few years of anonymity whilst the club stabilises – I just don’t want League One football. So, whilst long term I don’t want Clough as boss (unless of course he goes on some miracle journey of improvement, in which case I am more than happy to be proven wrong) if we stay up then I won’t want him sacked as I think a period of managerial stability (only 1 manager completed 2 years in charge at Derby since 2001, a ridiculous statistic) will of long term be of benefit to the club, even if nothing in particularly is achieved in that time. I just don’t think the club can afford a spell in League One as a result of trying to find the right man to earn that stability.

  6. Alan

    January 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks Rob.

    In all honesty I think there are plenty of managers available who could do a better job than Clough. George Burley, for one, did well at Derby on a tight budget and had a much less accommodating board than Clough has to work with (he was during the “Three Amigos” period, currently doing time at her Majesty’s Pleasure after being caught embezzling the club). But of course, there is the old adage: never go back. So other names currently without a club – Jim Gannon, Steve Coppell, Iain Dowie and Jim Magilton. Of those with clubs Ian Holloway (who I wanted at the time of Clough’s appointment, but we wouldn’t get away with Blackpool), Sean o’Driscoll, Neil Warnock (who wouldn’t be a popular choice admittedly) and Aidy Boothroyd have all done a proven job at this level on a small budget. And from the lower leagues, Paul Simpson deserves another shot at the Championship and Paul Trollope continually impresses with Bristol Rovers is the club wants to take another (more considered) gamble.

    Clough worked with a small squad at Burton and he did take over a squad he consistently referred to as “top heavy”, his preference is a squad of 20 players, so roughly two for each position and when he took over the squad was in the region of 32-33. I think his desire for a small squad simply meshed well with the board’s want of a trimmed wage bill rather than being suited to fit. I agree that, with time, Clough will gain the experience of a Warnock and, maybe, improve considerably but I don’t want that to come at the expense of Derby going down which is what I think would happen if he remains. I have little issue with a 2 or 3 seasons or mid-table anonymity while the club sorts itself out and Clough gets his base set (in my mere 17 years as a Derby fan I’ve seen us promoted twice, relegated twice, lose a playoff final and a semi final and experienced plenty of relegation battles – I’d quite welcome a quiet year or two!) but I refuse to accept a spell in League One (which I’d happily wager that we’d be stuck on for at least 2 or 3 years and would set back attendances and therefore the clubs financially position) as part of Nigel Clough’s learning curve. I think it would have been better for Clough to gain that experience that a League One club, maybe a club with greater pressure and expectation than Burton Albion (who were overachieving being in the Conference and only get gates of 2-3,000) rather than jump into the pressure pot of managing Derby, a club with an consistent average attendance of 28,000-30,000 over the last 3 years and an overly critical fanbase at the best of times, nevermind when someone with THAT surname is appointed. He’s not ready for this job yet and it was painfully obvious at the time that he wouldn’t be. As for a new manager inheriting the same squad, as I mentioned I think the core of the squad is good and should not have difficulty staying up – man for man we are stronger than Crystal Palace, Doncaster, Blackpool and Leceister all of whom are confortably clear of us. We just need a manager better equipped to get the best out of the players we have, in which case the aim of midtable stability whilst we rebuild should be relatively straight forward to achieve. And I cant imagine Clough and his backroom are on significant wages – it’s widely been acknowledged as “the cheap option” on the board’s part , we didn’t even have to pay Burton compensation as he had no formal contract signed with the Brewers.

    Whilst literally we are in a similar position to this time last season, most of the teams below have games in hand (many of them have 2, thanks to the snow) and we took over a quarter of our current points total (7 from 26) in our first four games! 19 points from 22 games does not suggest we are going to stay up, especially with Ipswich steadily improving and Plymouth and Sheff Weds buoyed by the appointment of new managers. Even Reading have a 1-1 draw v Liverpool to draw strength from, though that could reasonable be put down to the magic of the cup. We also have to travel to Peterborough, Reading and Plymouth over the next few weeks and it’s very difficult, under current form, to see how we will do anything other than gift our relegation rivals their easiest three points of the season. We have one away win since April and the home form (which was largely based on teams currently makling up the bottom 8) has vanished in three straight defeats to clubs who, with all due respect, we should beat at home (Blackpool, Doncaster, Scunthorpe) and six of the top ten yet to come to Pride Park it’s difficult to see where it will significantly improve to make up the deficit. As for rumours, they only surround Hulse (who turned down a move, though might take one now) and Commons, it’s difficult to see who would want any of the rest of them! And it’s part and parcel of football, every club is surrounding by whispers at this point, it’s not a valid excuse in my eyes. Clough has completed all his big outgoings with the freeing of Albrechtsen, Carroll, Davis etc. The squad at the moment is more based on him wanting Ins than outs.

    I agree that it’s a manager in a difficult situation. But I believe it’s a manager who should never have been put in that situation in the first place, nevermind one who doesn’t have the ability/knowledge to get us out of it. His team selection against Scunthorpe was so baffling (employing two target men up front yet not playing any wide players, instead employing a midfield of four players who are primarily central midfielders was especially baffling, even for Clough) that I absolutely fail to see what miracle is going to happen to turn it around. The only way I can see Clough being in charge and Derby staying up is if the board force him to replace his inexperienced yesmen backroom staff with an experienced head of football and a properly experienced staff to help coax him through his early learning experience.

    Sorry that’s so long but there’s so much to talk about regarding Clough at the moment.

  7. Matt

    January 10, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Sacking clough is the worst possible move derby could do, stability is what is required yet clough should have an assistant with a wealth of knowledge and experience. A reason for not sacking is well use Phil Brown as an example he is now managing a team in the premier league, The Davies issue is a nice one can we go back to the year we won the playoffs during that season davies accumulated a spending of near 25million so therefore on recieving the promotion money this was already spent he then pursued the summer in wanting his backroom staff this again ned kelly mainly costing derby a 6million just in compensation and wages during the summer of the bad season davies signed what can only be called as shite players . the upside to this one is forest same position derby were in the promotion season and so far have spent a staggering 38million with add ons compensation bonus’s and wage increases, this itself spells out doom and gloom from the start and lets not forget the famous when i lifted the trophy the only thing was the colours of black and white should of been the blue and white of preston.

    anyway transfers derby county will sign chris riggot in the next week or two maybe with the aspect of transfering hulse to boro, i know this due to riggott being a resident in the hotel i work.

  8. Alan

    January 10, 2010 at 4:20 am

    A nice article but misguided. I was at the match yesterday, the most shocking thing was it wasn’t the worse we have played this season. I would give that honour to the Blackpool “performance”. I’ll go through point by point where I disagree

    1. It was Clough’s choice to narrow the squad down to 20 players. Yes, it happily coincided with GSE’s desire for a lower wage bill but Clough repeatedly stated his desire for a squad nucleus of 20 players for this season which he has got. It’s highly debatable he got rid of the right players but more of that later. There is a large feeling amongst the Derby support that many of our injuries also stem from Clough’s back room staff, who he brought with him from Burton and have no experience of dealing with higher division players. Above a certain level players become athletes rather than just footballers, and liable to injury if not treated correctly in training and the likes of Andy Garner’s inexperience of this has cost the team badly with injuries. This is, of course, just conjecture, but it’s an argument that makes sense.

    Davies engineered his own exit from Derby. It’s a little known fact (because Davies, funnily enough, never mentions it when playing the victim card during his time at Derby) that Davies applied for the Leicester job TWICE whilst at Pride Park. Whilst, admittedly, he was let down by the board during the summer window before the premier league season he seemed more interested in going on holiday, extending his contract and getting his mates in then signing players and when he did make signings they were all awful. He spent roughly £10m on players, who have all gone and who were all awful. £10m isn’t a fortune but it’s as huge as Phil Brown had at Hull and Tony Pulis had at Stoke and they’ve managed to do it.

    Yes Savage isn’t up to it. Who extended his contract and insists on playing every week despite how bad he is? Clough. Hendrie, too old and injury prone to bring in to replace him. Who brought in him? Clough.
    There is constant accusations that Clough has had limited resources but he took over a side of good Championship players (Bywater, Leacock, Hulse, Addison) and has only been asked to keep their heads above water and he can’t do it. Derby were in the top 10 Championship highest spenders in the summer and Clough was building from a solid base that was massively underachieving, he already has better players than things suggested. Warnock has a weaker squad and worst financial problems at Palace and they are 3 points outside the playoff zone.

    It’s OK saying Clough came in and kept us up, but I’m not so sure he did. We were 5 points clear of the relegation zone when he took over and out form under him (bar one spell in Feb/Mar) was atrocious – we won only 3 of the last 14 games and still stayed up at 8 points, I think it’s fairly plausible argument that we would have stayed up under Jewell.. The league that season was as full of mediocre and plain bad sides as it is this. People aren’t giving Clough short thrift because we’re not in the top 6, we were never going to be and no (reasonable) fan expects too. The problem is year on there is no improvement in anything on the playing side, in fact it’s worse. A club the size of Derby being in the third tier is unacceptable and will be down to gross mismanagement but at the moment the only way we are looking is down.

    The players do not seem to want to play for Clough and there are rumblings locally that many of them do no like his coaching staff . The current management setup obviously do not know how to pamper the egos of these rich footballers (even the tosh we have are pulling in between £5 and 15k a week). It’s a mute point saying we don’t have the strength in depth of WBA, Newcastle etc. we don’t expect to be in the playoffs, we expect to be midtable so should be compared to those teams. Palace, Q.P.R., Doncaster, Blackpool? Yes, we DO have the players to match them, but not the manager. An experienced LEAGUE manager with a good history of working on a limited budget would see us around 10th in the league I am absolutely convinced and I am GUTTED we didn’t appoint an Ian Holloway when we had the chance. This appointment was obviously made on rose-tinted, misplaced, his-dad-was-good nostalgia from the start and always destined to fail in the more cynical eyes.

    • Rob McCluskey

      January 10, 2010 at 9:38 am

      Thanks for your comment Alan, good to hear a Derby supporters side of the story.

      If you did sack Clough do you think that there would be another manager that could keep you up or do a better job? I know you say it was Clough’s call to reduce the size of the squad but do you not think that is largely a result of the board wanting the wage budget reduced? You cite Warnock but think of all the experience he has, sacking Clough won’t give him a chance to get that experience. I’m not saying Derby is a stepping stone in any way, I just think that it needs to progress with Clough and Derby so you can keep on rebuilding. If you sack Clough and his backroom staff then the new manager is just going to inherit the same squad and have even less money because of all those sackings.

      You’re in a similar position to last season but have around £5m off your wage bill, I just think Clough needs time to get the experience and then it will pay dividends in the future. I think its pretty hard for the players to keep focus when theres rumours of other clubs wanting to buy a lot of the players and so many people going out.

      But in another sight I understand its hard being down the bottom of the table with your club losing form fast. Nicky Hunt has come in and hopefully DJ campbell will start hitting some goals to take the pressure off Hulse. Just call my a sympathiser I suppose for a manager in a difficult situation!

  9. Steve

    January 10, 2010 at 4:14 am

    Still a sensible, balanced article though, compared to the nonsense spouted by many on 606 every day.

  10. JIm sheen

    January 10, 2010 at 4:05 am

    Dean Moxey was signe from exeter not Burton.

    Sloppy Journalism.

    • Rob McCluskey

      January 10, 2010 at 9:18 am

      meant Jake Buxton – obviously a bit too tired for my own good! Updated!

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