Derby are sat bottom of the Sky Bet Championship table at the time of speaking ahead of the trip to Millwall, four points adrift of safety. What have you made of what you’ve seen so far?
It’s simply been a disaster for Derby so far and, with the way they’ve been playing, they absolutely deserve to be where they are. There have been so many factors that have led to them not being able to hit their normal levels; they are usually play-off contenders and this season they’ve been anything but. They had lots of upheaval when Phillip Cocu was removed from his job, though it was mutual in the end, and there was a consensus that they didn’t get pre-season quite right, with players arriving back just a little bit undercooked. They’ve also been unable to see games out. They’ve taken the lead in so many matches but haven’t score the second goal and therefore teams have pegged them back. Then throw in the uncertainty of a takeover that has been going on for the best part of a month and the four-man management team that had a dabble before Wayne Rooney was put in interim charge on a sole basis. So many things have happened in a short space of time and it just hasn’t been conducive for Derby putting in consistent performances. As the cliché goals, the table doesn’t lie. There has been lots of uncertainty off the field that has translated to performances on the field and fans are really concerned that if things don’t change quickly then Derby could be in for a really tough relegation battle. As we’ve seen over the years, no team is too big to drop through this league.
It’s the million dollar question to pinpoint exactly what’s gone wrong, but in which areas have they struggled most since September?
Goals, unquestionably. You only have to look at their ‘for’ column in the table to see that they have really struggled. At the time of speaking, they are yet to score more than one goal in any game this season and they haven’t got what you’d call an out-and-out striker that they’ve been able to rely on. They lost Chris Martin, their focal point, to Bristol City when they failed to agree on a new contract and have brought in Colin Kazim-Richards, who we’ve only just seen get into the team and he scored his first goal in the draw with Coventry last Tuesday. But they’ve been struggling to score goals and that’s simply the area that needs addressing in January. There’s a hope they can limp to January and then maybe get a striker in but they don’t create enough chances and with the few chances they do create, there isn’t the man there to put the ball in the back of the net. They’ve tried various options, including Martyn Waghorn and Wayne Rooney, but neither of those options worked so there’s now a hope that Kazim-Richards can become that focal point.
Wayne Rooney said last week that he’d be content to retire if he was offered the manager’s role at Pride Park but it’s his former England team-mate John Terry who is the favourite at the time of speaking. What’s your take on the managerial situation?
It does need sorting quickly. It’s complicated because you have Rooney, who arrived at Derby with the player-coach title. His performances haven’t been as effective as they were when he first arrived so I think he is very much eyeing the next move, which is going into management, and, clearly, he has a path at Derby that he can see, maybe following in the footsteps of what Frank Lampard did. The problem is, if you were to choose your first job, you wouldn’t choose a club bottom of the table, going through a takeover and very low in confidence. He is, though, a very self-assured guy and has often said he has belief in the job he does. John Terry is the favourite, though there have been several favourites that have come and gone over the last few weeks, so no one really knows. What I would say – and I think a lot of fans have the same mindset – is that it’s a job for experience now. It’s a job for someone who knows what they are doing and is able to come in and make an impact straight away, like Tony Pulis has done with Sheffield Wednesday this season and Michael O’Neill did with Stoke last season. I think Derby need to go down that route, however we don’t know what the new owners are thinking and maybe the attraction of having a name like Rooney or Terry is good for them in trying to sell the Derby County brand around the world. One thing that is for certain is that whatever route they go down, they need to get it confirmed ASAP.
Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on?
I was dreading this one because there hasn’t been a consistent performer this season. There hasn’t been a player who has been the one to look out for. Based on the last few performances, you’d have to say it would be Kazim-Richards. He has had such an interesting career and when he arrived at Derby, I think it’s fair to say that fans were underwhelmed by the signing of a 34-year-old journeyman, which looked like a panic buy late on. Recently though, he’s played really well. He’s tough, he’s physical, he makes sure that he puts himself about and brings others into play but what this team needs – and he is providing – is a vocal presence. It’s interesting to watch him operate because he really is one of the leaders in this team and when Derby conceded twice late on against Wycombe and Coventry, he was visibly devastated. The fans have taken to him because they can see that he cares and is willing to put in a shift for the cause.
How are Derby likely to set up at the Brentford Community Stadium?
At the time of speaking, we’ve seen two games that Rooney has taken charge of and we’ve seen two different formations, so it’s difficult to say how they’ll line up. Derby have tended to play a 3-4-3 this season but we haven’t seen that from Rooney, so it’s safe to say that he prefers four at the back. Against Coventry, he played Krystian Bielik and Max Bird in holding roles in a 4-2-3-1 and it wouldn’t surprise me if he did that. I think it’s likely that he hasn’t settled on a formation yet and it’s very much horses for courses; he set up to counter Wycombe and then set up to try and get the best out of the wide players against Coventry. There’s also the chance that he might not even be in charge if the takeover has gone through and a new manager is in charge.
Brentford have won two of the last three games, scoring three in each of the last three. What’s your score prediction for this one?
It’s a weird one because the majority of Derby’s points have come against promotion-chasing teams; they beat Norwich, got a draw at Bournemouth and should’ve beaten Watford. They do tend to play well against the better teams, I will give them that, however I just can’t see them turning it around that quickly against a Brentford side who seem to have found their form now. I’ll go for 2-0 to Brentford.
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