Fulham 1 : Derby County 1 – 6th February 2016

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This was going to be a reasonably positive post on our more or less acceptable draw against Fulham on Saturday. However.. my ruminations got somewhat overtaken by events. Paul Clement sacked on Monday night. Darren Wassall installed to the end of the season & some increasingly bonkers explanations by our benevolent benefactor about the reasons for doing what he did. So I thought it might be sensible to reflect on things before putting pen to paper.

Here we go then…

A retro return to the riverside

Craven Cottage is one of my favourite grounds, it’s got character, pyro dogs, delicious hot dogs, it’s easy to get to from Watford &, of course, it has a great riverside setting. What’s not to like? Well, it was the scene of a seminal defeat last season when we were top of the league & hoping to push on. Sounds familiar?

I was accompanied by The Witch & Spicy Kev for this one. We’d already bumped into Gary Lineker at Euston Station, so the omens were good. A quick pint in The Crabtree, an artisan hot dog at the back of the stand & we were in our seats (although obviously we never sat down). Time to ponder the rather bold team selection.

Five changes. Ince, Butterfield, Warnock (a tad unluckily) & Blackman all consigned to the bench. Thorne out injured. A bit of a risk but it was quite reassuring that a certain one footed winger was left out. I thought he was undroppable. It was great to see Bryson. I wasn’t the only Derby fan (& now the owner, it seems) to have developed a bit of nostalgic yearning for the barnstorming, high tempo performances of that first McClaren season. Bryson was central to that. Perhaps this was a sign. The whole side had a sort of retro feel to it, as if we were trying to get back to basics. There was one worrying thought though. £18 million+ worth of talent on the bench? Did we buy the wrong players then? A sign of our dysfunctional nature I reckon.

We started the game off ok. Knocked the ball around well. Jeff & Bryson showed some energy in midfield. However, as in previous games, it didn’t last long. 17 minutes in this case. A little bit of Fulham pressure & they were in the lead, courtesy of a ludicrous own goal from debutant Olsson. We fell apart after that, again demonstrating our fragility as a team. Dissatisfaction spread amongst the 4,000 Rams fans (& one Watford fan).

We didn’t recover our poise until just before half time. For once, an astute and acurate ball forward from Shacks, a sort of hopeful hook into the box from Martin & a splendid finish from who else but Mr Bryson. A reminder of games gone past indeed & chance to repeat that song about haggis & jaeger. Half time came & went. It was at least an opportunity to make sure my new DCFC London Supporters Club badge was on correctly. Thanks to Peter Roe for doling those out.

The 2nd half was a bit of a random blur to be honest. We were more or less at pitch level, a few rows from the front & that didn’t give us a very good perspective on Derby’s attacking forays at the other end. Still, I thought we did ok. Olsson looked pretty mobile & competent. Super Johnny had a chance to put us 1-2 up near the end but didn’t show enough composure to score. Then a bit of pressure from Fulham. To be fair, they could have nicked a goal.

And that was it. A draw was definitely a fair result & would have been seen as a good one if we weren’t in a run of 7 games without a win. As Clement strolled past & politely applauded the massed ranks of Derby fans, I felt reasonably hopefully for the future. We’d ended the day only 5 points off the top. Plenty of time for us to gather ourselves around Clement & focus on consolidating our position in the play offs or even sneaking back into those automatic promotion positions.

A shocking announcement

I normally stream the Radio Derby Sportscene Squawk-in while in the gym but the wifi was knackered. I had to focus on sort of exercising for a bit. And then on a break from my intense workout I flicked on The Twitter. Clement sacked. I was gobsmacked. As it appears most of Derby, the local media & the national media was. And my brother. And the other half. And two work colleagues. As we all desperately clambered for an explanation I read the bizarre statement from the club that explained that Clement had been ditched for not “building on the Derby Way” & for (it would appear) not playing the style of football we had played under McClaren. Oh, and promotion wasn’t a priority. What utter nonsense.

What next then? I expected to hear the usual guff about the search for a replacement starting straight away. No. Darren Wassall appointed for the rest of the season. We all have respect for what he’s achieved with the Academy but as a Head Coach? Seriously?

One ludicrous statement after another

You have to give our benevolent benefactor some credit. He didn’t shy away from trying to explain his decision the next day. Interviews with East Midlands Today, The Derby Telegraph & Radio Derby followed in quick succession. This was a chance for him to clear things up. After all, he’s one of our own, a top businessman & had come across as a down to earth, straightforward kinda guy in those media interviews when he took over the club.

So was it cleared up? Was it ‘eckers like. What we got was a succession of bizarre & barely credible statements, which left most Rams fans (even the small minority who wanted Clement out) bewildered. The following is a rough approximation of what was said..

Performance was the important thing, not winning games/getting into the play offs/getting promoted.

Clement had signed up to this “plan”. But had moved away from it & was too focused on promotion. Or the “short term”..

He didn’t regret going into the dressing room after the Reading draw. He wanted to avoid players & coaches pointing fingers at each other so he decided he would become the “grizzly bear and put everyone on the carpet for it”. Yep, I’ve got no idea what that means either.

He’ll begin the process of recruiting a new manager but expects it to last the rest of the season. Does it really take that long?

“The Derby Way” (a concept no Rams fan has ever heard of or recognises) was basically defined as the football McClaren played. And he only failed because of injuries & a poor defence. Why did you sack him then? History was being rewritten there a tad.

We didn’t play enough Under 21 players. Mel didn’t interfere with team selection although he felt Clement should have played Jamie Hanson a lot more. Presumably, he communicated this view to Clement. I’d call that interference.

Pearce, Bent etc were signed for free when the Yanks were still in power. We signed “decent” players when Mel took over but mainly as cover for injuries & not as part of a coherent plan. Clement had the final say on signings & Mel paid for whatever player he wanted. Really? That’s very amenable of him.

None of this makes any sense, days afterwards.

The future

Obviously, we’ve all got to get behind Darren & the team. And the new club captain (or the old one?) However, I wouldn’t put it past Mel to announce within a few games that he’s found an outstanding candidate for the job. Mourinho? Rodgers (Brendan, not me..). At least Neil Warnock has been snapped up this week.

Let’s see what happens.

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