The latest instalment of our season preview takes us to Pride Park, Derby
THE 2011-12 SEASON saw a marked improvement for Nigel Clough and Derby County as the Rams secured a top-half finished with 12th spot. It’s been long, hard work for the Rams’ boss to improve the Midlands outfit, but it finally looks like paying dividends.
Incremental improvement has been the name of the game for the Rams who will surely look to kick on toward the Play-Off’s this season with the right improvements to a squad which appears on the face of it, to be radically overhauled each summer.
Skipper Jason Shackell has gone, after just one season at Pride Park, signed by Burnley for £1m, Derby re-couping the fee they paid for the centre-half. Long-serving Rams Paul Green and Miles Addison have also departed for pastures new after four and seven years with the club respectively.
Strengths: With a couple of exceptions, James O’Connor & Gareth Roberts to name two, this is a hungry young Rams’ squad. Gone are some of the tired older headers mentioned earlier, and in their places are vibrant youngsters with plenty to prove such as Michael Jacobs, Richard Keogh and Paul Coutts.
Weakness’: Non-prolific strikers.
Derby’s frontmen include ex-Hornet Theo Robinson, Nathan Tyson, Jamie Ward and Steven Davies, two of which are used as wingers more than forward, and none of whom will ever be considered prolific at this level. All four have the potential to bag up 10 goals a season, but after that you do start to wonder. A 20 goal a season striker is desperately needed.
Best business so far: Signing Coutts from Preston North End for £150k is a steal. The Scot was out of favour at Deepdale after falling out with manager Graham Westley. Impressive at Peterborough, former Posh and PNE boss Darren Ferguson took him to Deepdale where he never truly settled.
The small change that passed hands to bring the 24 year-old former Cove Rangers man to Pride Park could be one of the bargains of the season.
Star man: Homegrown midfielder Jeff Hendrick is one for the now as much as the future.
Bursting onto the scene as a first-team regular last season, making 46 appearances in the process, the 20 year-old Dubliner impressed hugely in either wide or central midfield positions.
In: Paul Coutts (Preston North End) £150k, James O’Connor (Doncaster Rovers) free transfer, Richard Keogh (Coventry City) £1m & Michael Jacobs (Northampton Town) undisc.
Out: Chris Maguire (Sheffield Wednesday) undisc, Paul Green (Leeds United) free transfer, Jason Shackell (Burnley) £1m, Miles Addison (Bournemouth) free transfer, Aaron Cole, James Severn, Chris Jones & Ryan Connolly (all released).
wfc123: Top-half if they have a good season, bottom half if they have a bad season. It’s always hard to tell with Derby and this year will be no different whatsoever.
chrisgwfc: Like Burnley very difficult to predict. Usually start the season well before falling in their mid season plummet. Pressure will be on to deliver for Clough after 3 and 1/2 years at the club and after selling Shackell to Burnley. Mid Table at best.