Derby County: 2015-16 pre – season musings

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So. Have you recovered from last season yet?

Not really. Ironically, I got over the play off defeat pretty quickly the season before last. Everything felt so positive back then &, like most people, I believed McClaren was an outstanding coach with a magic touch & real affection for the club. As it turned out, he wasn’t. I think we were all a bit naive about him, to be honest, & it was a poor season that ended really badly. Despite the changes made over the summer, I can’t really get those defeats against Wigan, Forest, Fulham & most of all, Reading, out of my head.

Happy with what’s happened over the summer?

Very happy, with some caveats..

I suppose the first highlight of the summer was the sacking of McClaren, which I heard about when I was in the bar of a Premier Inn at Liverpool Airport. Not the most salubrious of surroundings but that pint went down rather well. I’m just glad we got rid of him on our own terms.

And then it began. First Pearce & Bent. Signed by our “standalone” recruitment department when we didn’t even have a head coach. Interesting.. Then came the much touted announcement of Paul Clement as McClaren’s replacement (more of him later.) I did find it quite strange, at the time, that Colin Gibson was so heavily involved in all the publicity shots. Then I realised that was our new Lionel Pickering-style, blast from the past, Chairman-in-waiting, Mel Morris. He worries me slightly. Is he too hands on?

Then we started to shell out money big style. Weimann, Baird, Ince, Carson & then the one we were all waiting for (yes, even me), putative captain (er…) Jason Shackell. Transfer records were broken & presumably wods of cash have been blown in wages & signing on fees. Maybe that won’t put us at risk of breaking FFP (which appears to be being swiftly dropped anyway) but it can’t be sustainable unless we get promoted. We still lost £7 million last year, despite a 23% increase in turnover.

The signings of Weimann (who impressed me when he was on loan at Watford several years ago) & Shackell (obviously we should never have sold him) have made me feel pretty positive about things. The others haven’t but I supposed I only have the Northampton friendly to go by. Let’s see how they all get on as the season progresses shall we?

So what DO you think of Paul Clement?

Straight talking, knowledgeable, authoritative, pleasingly flexible with formations and. . with no experience of managing a football club.

To be fair.. He’s come across really well & things like the dissatisfaction he showed after the Northampton game, the willingness to depart from the standard McClaren 4-3-3 & the decision to look for a new captain, all bode well for the future. Let’s see how he copes when he makes some inevitable mistakes & how he learns from them. That will demonstrate what sort of head coach we’ve chosen. Time will tell.

How do you think the team will look like for the first game against Bolton?

Difficult to predict what the formation will be & who will play, to be honest. I hope Clement knows. Bolton will struggle this season I think, so I think we need a positive diamond style formation. I’ll go for Grant, Fozzy, Baird, Shacks, Pearce,  Thorne, Hendrick, Hughes, Ince, Martin, Weimann. Russell will come on after 60 mins & score the winner.

Who’s going to be player of the season?

Shackell. I think he’s been the missing part of the jigsaw since he left. There you go, that’s the kiss of death from me, Jason.

Who’s going to be this season’s Leon Best?

I think Bent might have a difficult season & will probably spend a lot of it on the bench. Martin, Weimann & Russell are all ahead of him in the pecking order at the moment. He’ll score a few goals of course but we all know he contributes little else.

Finally, what are your predictions?

Martin will score 20+ goals.

Thorne will play a full season.

The DCFC Megastore will release “Clement” branded pullovers within weeks.

We’ll finish 5th.

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