Time to explore my split personality again and interview myself about where the Rams stand at the mid point of the season.
Sum up the season so far in three words.
Top. Keogh. Resilient.
Has it met your expectations so far?
Oh yes. In my pre-season piece, I rather negatively speculated that we’d finish 5th at the end of the season. Given how well we’ve played (in the main), some cracking results and the fact that we currently sit top of the Championship, I have to say that the season has vastly exceeded my expectations.
I suppose the recruitment of Paul Clement as Head Coach had a lot to do with my early season caution. All the guff about him being a brilliant coach because of his stints as understudy to Ancelotti at Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid sort of passed me by. The woeful performance in the Northampton friendly didn’t help either.
However, as the season progressed and we began to understand Clement’s approach to formation, team selection and man management, I began to warm to him. I don’t think you can reasonably say that he’s made any significant mistakes. Perhaps in making Baird his captain but you could understand why he did that. He’s got to take a lot of credit for the way the team has performed. He has been increasingly passionate during games and very impressive in his interviews with the local and national media. A world away from McClaren, basically.
The team’s been very solid defensively, we’ve racked up a lot of clean sheets, won ugly where necessary and have looked reasonably good as an attacking force, if not as bravura as the early period under that other chap. We’ve shown a real professionalism & resilience in grinding out results too. Only two bizarre, inexplicable defeats against local rivals have really put a downer on things. But only a little.
Oh and Mel’s millions have obviously made a difference. He’s been brilliant. Never expected a free scarf and coffee at the start of the season.
Who’s been the star performer (so far)?
Unlike last season, there are plenty of candidates for this at mid season.
Warnock has been a bit of a surprise. Clement obviously worked out that he was a lot better than the shambles of a player we saw last season. Has often been one of the best players in the side since taking over from the stricken Fozzy.
Martin. What can you say? Still a regular scorer. Still the player central to the way we play. Still a moaner. Showed balls in scoring that penalty against Brighton. Oh and he’s now our captain, unquestionably the best man for that job.
Thorne. Not had a consistently outstanding season but that’s to be expected given what he’s been through over the last few years. But he has shown us what we missed for most of last season and has demonstrated why he is so important to the 433 system.
Christie. Another player who has resurrected his Rams career. His rampaging runs down the right side have been a feature so far, although his end product in the box still needs working on. Has been solid in defence too. Has seen off that Baird chappie and the guy with the long name.
Shackell. Most fans (including me) were a tad sceptical about whacking £3.5 million on this guy in the summer. However, he’s been as good (if not better) than as we all remembered him to be. He’s gone about his defensive business in an understated but ruthlessly efficient manner. Not only should he be credited with transforming our defence from the mess it was last season but he’s had a profound effect on his central defensive partner too.
So the winner of star performer is, like you say ….. KEOGH, KEOGH, KEOGH! Having a decent central defender next to him at last has worked wonders for our Richard. Released from the burdens of last season, he’s been a revelation. Apart from a few minor errors, he’s been outstanding defensively and his passionate charges out of defence are a joy to behold. And I profess to welling up every time he approaches the South Stand at the end of the game and they chant his name. A shoe in for Player of the Season, surely.
Baird. Obviously, it’s tricky being known for being a utility player. At best you can be deemed to be reasonably good in a few positions but master of none. Also, he’s no George Thorne (there’s only one, apparently) & he’s no Cyrus either. Waving your arms and swearing at your own fans doesn’t help either.
Ok. I’m being a bit harsh. Baird might have a role to play in the second half of the season.
In a season where our most effective wins have been aways from home, this was a bit of a tricky choice. The 4-2 win over Wolves just about trumps the win over QPR, I reckon. Two equisite goals from Martin and a dominant performance.
Obviously, the Northampton friendly was a bit of a downer but it was only a friendly after all. I can’t count the Forest game because I only saw it on the telly. Despite that 1- 3 away victory over MK Dons, most of the game was awful. However, the Leeds match really took the biscuit. A worryingly poor performance and “that” incident with Baird and the East Stand.
Most profound blog comment?
“They’re hardly going to light up the division with their attacking vigour.” My comment on Burnley after our scoreless draw early in the season. Ok, that’s not particularly profound, we all know what Burnley are like..
“Alex Pearce must be wondering if he’ll ever get a game or, indeed, why he joined us. He’s not the only one.” Also from the Burnley game..
Most ludicrously incorrect (in hindsight) blog comment?
“I have to say that the time has come for Keogh. If (and it’s a big if) we get a reasonable offer for him we should take it. I think we all need a fresh start.” (Northampton match review). I actually still think this was a reasonable comment at the time. However, as the season started, Keogh was paired with Shackell and the rest, like you say, is history..
Most exhilarating moment?
In reverse order…
The free cup of coffee.
Ince’s first goal against Bristol.
Martin’s first goal against Wolves.
Martin’s penalty against Brighton.
Absolutely horrendous moment?
Got to be the Fozzy injury, in the QPR game. I had a good view of it and we all suspected it was a bad one.
End of season predictions
I think we’ve got a good chance of getting automatic promotion. Boro might pip us to the top spot though.
We spend at least £5 million on a nippy left winger in January.
Pearce plays in the FA Cup game and is then sold back to Reading.
Mel changes our catering provider to Nandos and personally hands out free whole chickens with savoury rice for the last home game of the season.