Much has been made of ‘Frank Lampard’s Derby’ this summer and they have – as is to be expected with a new figure at the helm - started the season with a mixture of results. How would you say the first month or so has gone?
It has been a bit of a mixture and you’d probably have to put that down to the fact that it’s a new regime and there’s nine new signings. They were well beaten at home by Leeds and then went on to lose at Millwall, which meant back-to-back league defeats having won the first game of the season.
They went on a really good run before the international break, winning four games in a row in all competitions, but they’ve only taken one point from the two games since and haven’t managed to score a goal. The last couple of games have been a little disappointing, but they are still within touching distance of the top six so I think they can be relatively satisfied.
Lampard said earlier in the season that it had been a decent start, but not a great start. They had a bad day at Rotherham last weekend; they didn’t really get going, lost their discipline and had both Tom Lawrence and Frank Lampard sent off. Against Blackburn on Tuesday they were much better but couldn’t quite find a way through – they had plenty of chances, but it ended goalless. Those games were frustrating for different reasons. They head into the Brentford game off the back of a much better display, but obviously in need of a win and a couple of goals.
Despite a lack of managerial experience, are there early signs that point towards a prolonged career in the dugout for the former England midfielder?
It would be unfair to judge at this early stage but, because of his playing career, he automatically commands respect from the players. He brought in his own backroom team that he knows and trusts, as well as a new style of play. He wants the team to play out from the back wherever they can, be patient, pick holes in the opposition and get through that way. There is always going to be teething problems, but you are beginning to see signs that he’s getting his points across more. The last two games haven’t gone to plan but, on the whole, it’s been positive around the place and it is still early days.
Derby have become notorious for working themselves into the running for promotion but never quite being able to get themselves over the line. With that in mind, what do you think is a realistic aim this term?
I think it is probably a similar aim in terms of trying to finish in the top six. We always say that top two is what they really want but everyone knows how hard that is, especially when you’ve got a new manager and quite a big turnover of players. Lampard will probably get a bit of time and leeway because of the changes that have occurred and I know the chairman has said that it isn’t the be-all and end-all to go up this season, but I think he’s just trying to take a bit of the pressure off. As a base, they will be looking for top six because it doesn’t get any easier every season – you’ve got teams coming down from the Premier League with the parachute payments.
Both clubs have looked impressive in the Carabao Cup and, arguably, have the plum draws of the Third Round in facing Manchester United and Arsenal away from home next week. Is there a lot of excitement emanating from The Rams fanbase ahead of the game?
Although it is clearly a big tie, it’s the same tie they had last season and I think, as is always the case, the league is the priority. Brentford on Saturday is just as big a game really and I don’t think many of the players will be thinking about Man United until the Brentford game is out of the way. It’s a nice one for the fans who have got the opportunity to take a good few thousand up to Old Trafford. It’ll be a good night out, but what sort of team Lampard plays and what changes he makes, I’m not too sure because they are in the middle of a pretty hectic period. Derby have got a pretty big squad and it sounds daft to say it, but I would imagine he will make changes against United, though you’d expect them to do the same.
The club made a number of high-profile signings this summer, including that of former Bees winger Florian Jozefzoon. Which member of the squad has impressed you most so far?
The one everyone is talking about, and probably rightly so, is Mason Mount, who they’ve got on loan from Chelsea. He’s being tipped for big things, in fact Gareth Southgate was at the game on Tuesday, apparently to watch Mason. He’s only 19 but he recently made his England Under-21 debut, scored the winner and set up the other goal out in Latvia in the Euro qualifier.
Lampard is getting asked about him every week and, to be fair, he’s been happy to talk him up as he probably sees a bit of himself in Mount. He doesn’t have the same build or stature as Lampard, but he’s similar in terms of being a goalscoring midfielder and just having that knack of popping up in the right position and scoring goals. He’s played every game for Derby so far and he does look a real talent. Jozefzoon has been in and out so far, partly because he started on the bench and his partner recently had a baby, so he obviously missed a fair chunk of training since his transfer. He scored a late winner at Hull just before the international break and he’s just starting to make his mark in the team so he’s done okay, but Mount is the one that has really stood out.
What’s your score prediction for the game?
It’s a tough one but we’ve just noticed that Brentford haven’t won away in the league so far this season, though I know they are particularly strong at home. We’ve seen them come to Derby and cause plenty of problems without actually winning. I think I could see it being perhaps Derby’s biggest test so far, certainly since they played Leeds, and I think it could be a really good game. I’m going to sit on the fence and say 1-1.
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