In keeping with the split personality nature of this blog, I thought I’d interview myself about where we stand at the mid point of the season.
Sum up the season so far in three words.
McClaren. Simmo. Eric.
Has it met your expectations so far?
Yes, but in a completely unexpected way (if that makes sense..). My end of season prediction for Derby was a rather optimistic (as usual) runners up spot. Behind ahem… Watford. I quickly had a reality check after the defeats at home to Leicester and Burnley. The Clough sacking was a complete shock, not particularly well handled by the club but a distant memory now. Clough might have turned things around but we can certainly say that McClaren has. You could say I’m happy being second at the half way point, the quality of some of our attacking play has been astounding and there has been a lot of grit and resilience too.
Who’s been the star performer?
Chris Martin, without a doubt. Obviously, he’s scored a lot of goals (15 in 23 games) but the role he plays in the middle of the front three is absolutely crucial to our attacking play. He holds the ball up better than any Derby player I’ve seen since Paul Goddard and has created so many goals for his team mates too. Could he be our first 20 goal a season man since Dean Sturridge in 1995-96? Perhaps when he does that, Derby fans will stop moaning about him falling over. Bryson also deserves a mention. A real Lampard-esque goal scoring midfielder, set free by the 4-3-3 formation brought in by McClaren. Andre Wisdom has been a brilliant acquisition, despite not playing in his best position.
Not many to choose from here but it has to be Adam Smith. Clearly, highly rated by Spurs but he just never cut it. Once he finally got into the side he never demonstrated sufficient defensive qualities in a team that was under pressure and lacking in confidence. I can’t really recall any attacking flair either. The writing was on the wall for Smith when McClaren brought in central defender Andre Wisdom on loan and stuck him in at right back against Sheffield Wednesday. Smith never got off the bench and was soon on his way back to Spurs.
The Ipswich game had it for sheer drama, the Blackpool game was an exhilarating goal fest, the Dirty Leeds win (the first at home this season) was a turning point but… The best match for me has to be the win at Watford (or “home” as I call it..). Watford at this time were still in good form but we capitalised on their errors, scored some great goals and dug in when we had too. Away support was tremendous too.
The first half against Ipswich comes close (seeing as it was absolutely awful) but the game that really made me think we (and Clough) were in trouble was the Burnley game. The formation was wrong and we basically got turned over by a team that just were pretty organised and had concentrated on getting the basics right. And it just felt like we’d seen it all before.
Most profound blog comment?
“This game was crying out for Eustace to start in front of the defence. He would have bolstered our powder puff midfield and given a chance for Hughes, Bryson and Wardy to get forward more.” (from the aforementioned Burnley game). Perhaps McClaren had my blog in mind when he stuck Eustace on at half time against Ipswich and kick started our season.
Most ludicrously incorrect (in hindsight) blog comment?
“Martin – I’m still not sure about him” (from the Blackburn game). Well, it was the first game of the season..
Most exhilarating moment?
Wardy’s headed goal against Watford, never thought I’d see him score a goal like that. I had a great view of it too.
Absolutely horrendous moment?
Conceding the fourth goal against Ipswich. Say no more.
End of season predictions?
We’ll play some great football but inevitably we’re going to hit a poor run of form sooner or later. I think how McClaren and the team deal with that will define the rest of the season. I’m hopeful..