David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Derby County’ Category

Has Clough got it in him?

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Nigel Clough has been carrying quite a lot of weight on his shoulders recently due to the bad run of form Derby County have shown recently despite Saturday’s 2-1 win over Leicester City. Some Rams fans are starting to go against him and even the big fans of Clough are starting to notice some flaws in his management style. Clough’s side haven’t picked up a win since February 2nd when they beat Huddersfield Town in a 3-0 triumph and this is starting to become a problem as Derby continue to fall down the table.

After speaking with numerous Derby fans on Twitter I have found that there are quite a few pros and cons towards Clough. The pros I have been given include things like his ability to spot good youth players and give them their chance in the first team, he is also liked for his lowering of the wage bill and another main point that was mentioned, his knowledge of the lower divisions.

The cons for Clough I have been given by Derby fans are such things as his tactical skills. They are often frowned upon, for example, his stubbornness when making substitutions and how he often settles for just the one point in certain games, whereas Derby fans feel they should be going for more. There have been a few times this season where this has cost the Rams.

Clough is often criticised for his man-management skills and how he deals with individuals. For example, he will ‘pick’ on players during media interviews and presents the idea to the fans that certain players only get one chance with him. Fans have made their opinions clear on how bad they feel some of his signings have been, most notably Chris Maguire, Conor Sammon and Nathan Tyson. But, on the positive side, he has also made some great signings with the likes of John Brayford, Jamie Ward, Craig Bryson and Shaun Barker becoming fan favourites.

Another reason fans have criticised Clough is the fact that he has only won 18 away games with Derby since joining in January 2009, which is not good enough. Progression is the biggest factor in Derby fans minds – in the four years Clough has been in charge there has been no real push for the playoffs – which is where all Rams fans think their club should be.

I think it’s clear that Derby fans have more bad things to say about their manager than good things at this moment in the season. Since Clough has joined Derby they have finished, 14th, 19th, 12th and this season they sit 12th in the table following the Leicester win. For a club like Derby County this is not acceptable; some fans blame it on the Board for not providing the correct funds to Clough and for treating the club more like a business – but, when a manager gets £1.200,000 to spend on a striker, we should be able to expect an established Championship striker with a decent scoring record, not a player that got 17 goals in 65 appearances for Kilmarnock and just a single goal in 32 appearances for Wigan Athletic.

Some Rams fans are saying ‘Give him one more year and see how he does’ but what signs has Clough shown this season, or any of his past seasons that gives Derby fans the belief that next season will be more glorious than any season before?

Quite simply, all of Cloughs seasons have contained the same reoccurring theme, inconsistency. Inconsistency is a big thing with a lot of teams who sit mid-table; even some of the best teams in the league struggle with it too. Every team is entitled to a dip in form but a true show of character is how quick you can rally the troops and get back on track.

The manager’s job is to motivate and get the team back on track in times like this. He should be lifting heads up, not letting it get to eight games without a win and publicly criticising players in the way he has recently picked on Michael Jacobs. How is that going to help the players’ confidence going into the latter stages of the season?

The business end of the season is not Clough’s strong spot either and that’s another reason some fans think Derby should move on. They need a manager that has experience in this division and who has made that final push before, someone with character and charisma that will make the players want it.

In my opinion, Reading’s title winning season of 2011-12 is one to look up to. They sat 16th in November but really picked up the pace and – the phrase I keep using – rallied the troops to fire up the league unexpectedly during the business end of the season.

Derby County need to see out the remainder of the current campaign and start focusing on the 2013-14 season, because there is nothing left in this campaign realistically. I believe its the perfect time for a change in the hotseat, with the quality of available managers out there at the moment. Brian McDermott, Nigel Adkins and Paolo Di Canio are names which spring to mind.

Whether the Derby board would be willing to splash out the wages these managers would most likely require, I’m unsure, but, if they want to make that push they will need the best and the best cost money. If Clough was to remain in charge, which is most likely, I would like to see him given some money to play with and see how he would use it.

I feel Clough has done all he can and there is still no sign of Derby going anywhere soon.

Written by Dominic Dietrich, We Are Going Up’s Derby County Blogger

Dominic tweets at @domjdietrich

Is the defence worth defending?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Over the 12/13 season a lot of the fans criticism has been directed at the Derby County defense for their lack of consistency and clean sheets. In this article I am going to talk about the defence problem and address some comments I have heard from Derby County fans.

So far this season the Rams have managed just six clean sheets, four coming at home and two away. The four home clean sheets came against Brighton, Barnsley, Huddersfield and Wolves two of which were 0-0 draws (Brighton and Wolves). The first of the two away clean sheets came against local rivals Nottingham Forest when the Rams battled for a 1-0 victory at the City Ground back in September. The second clean sheet came against Bristol City in  a 2-0 victory in December.

Six clean sheets is not good when you want to be challenging for the playoffs, as the top teams in the league have shown. Cardiff and Leicester top the chart with thirteen clean sheets and Hull comes third with twelve. Leicester and Hull are constantly swapping places with each other in the top three with Cardiff flying high at the top of the league. This shows clearly that clean sheets can be key to success in the championship.

This season the strongest back four in my opinion for Derby from right back across is; John Brayford, Richard Keogh, Jake Buxton and Gareth Roberts. The strongest of these four defenders has to be right back John Brayford who has shown a lot of consistency since joining from Crewe in May 2010 and continues to improve. Brayford has been in the eye of numerous Premier League clubs along with some top half Championship clubs and has been subject to a lot of speculation.

Richard Keogh will go down as the main centre back with him being club captain and showing some good performances since joining from Coventry in the summer and really taking to his leadership role.
Jake Buxton, Mark O’Brien and Gareth Roberts’ recent performances have been questioned by many Rams fans. Some believe Roberts is past his peak and isn’t up to Championship standard anymore. I can agree with this because it is clear his performances are declining, losing his physical battles and then making some rash decisions when defending and attacking.

Jake Buxton is labelled as a traditional and honest English centre back by Derby fans with his philosophy of getting rid, no nonsense defending and putting himself on the line for the team. In recent appearances for Derby, fans have said they feel he takes this ‘label’ a bit too seriously, not taking a touch and lifting his head up to see what he’s got around him and just smacking it up to the striker. This isn’t nice to see from a fans perspective.

Mark O’Brien is another Centre Back in the Derby squad but he is young and has hit first team football from an early age coming through the youth system. For a centre back I feel O’Brien lacks that physical presence that fans like to see, for example, Shaun Barker has a presence when he is on the pitch and it gives the players and fans some reassurance when he goes to battle against strikers.

Two defenders that have only recently been introduced to the starting line up are Kieron Freeman and Michael Hoganson. Hoganson was a summer signing from Newcastle Utd and with Gareth Roberts getting shown the red card  away at Hull (resulting in a three match suspension), Hoganson got his chance starting at left back against Wolves and has started every game since showing some promising performances. Kieron Freeman was another summer signing but he came from local rivals Nottingham Forest. Freeman was a signing for the future with him only being 21 years old and has made 11 league appearances and 6 of which have been off the bench in a right or left back role.

In my opinion, Derby need to seriously think about bringing in a centre back to support Keogh who is experienced at Championship level and has shown consistency at his recent clubs. As I’ve already said, I don’t feel Buxton is up to Championship standard and doesn’t have the composure to match the style of football that Derby are trying to introduce; Mark O’Brien is still very young considering most Centre backs don’t peak until the ages of 24- 28 years old. He still has a big future ahead of him but, at this moment in time, I don’t feel he is up to the standard physically.

Another position that Derby desperately need to invest in and one that many Rams fans have been saying  since the departure of Dean Moxey in 2011, is a left back.  Roberts is past his peak now at the age of 35 and, in my opinion, is not a 46 game a season left back and Derby do need to look for a new fresh player to inject something into the Derby back four.

A player like Aidy White has a lot of ability and potential to do a great job in the Derby back four;  he provides a lot of support on the attack and then still has the pace to get back and do a job in defence. Another option at left back could be Southampton’s Danny Fox who has, in the past, been used to a lot of first team football but this season only making 12 appearances in all competitions –  this could be perfect timing to poach a player like him when he is wanting first team football.

At centre back, I believe Derby need an authoritative figure who comes onto the pitch and has a presence, someone with experience who can play the ball, win his headers and 50-50s. Tal Ben Haim has recently been taken in by QPR after being a free agent and could have been, in my opinion, a great addition to the Derby back four, his wage demands could have been high but to compete with the big dogs in the Championship you have to be willing to pay the money.

In conclusion,  Derby cannot go on with this current defence because it is not up to promotion standard, Derby need to show some ambition by spending some money on a good established centre back. They need to look a lot more solid and organised when taking the lead in matches or when they get back into matches, for example, the ’home and away’ match against Sheffield Wednesday and the recent 2-1 loss to Hull City. It will be interesting to see how Derby can handle one of the top teams in the league this coming Friday with Crystal Palace and hopefully show that there is still fight left in this Derby side.

Written by Dominic Dietrich, We Are Going Up’s Derby County Blogger

Dominic tweets at @domjdietrich

Can the Rams make that push for promotion or is Clough’s time up?

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

‘Mid table’ is a phrase that many Rams fans are associating with their club at the moment and their current league position doesn’t deny that. Derby County currently sit 10th in the Npower Championship and it seems as if Derby fans are in disbelief that their side will ever make that push for the Premier League under current manager, Nigel Clough.

I have heard positive and negative comments thrown towards manager Nigel Clough, the positives being his constant belief in the young talent coming through with the likes of Will Hughes, Jeff Hendrick and Mark O’Brien getting a regular spot in the clubs starting eleven and, also, the flamboyant style of play Clough’s side are playing at the moment. The negatives I hear Derby fans talking about are mainly to do with his somewhat negative setup against the big clubs at home with Clough insisting on playing 4-5-1 in some of the big playoff battles like Hull City. Quite a lot Fans believe Clough is so set on stopping the other team playing their football, he misses the fact that Derby need to focus on their  football especially when playing at home and take the game to the visiting side.

With Derby County it is clear that their recent seasons show inconsistency. It seems as if, whenever Derby have a chance to drive on, they hit a bump in the road and slow down; with such a young side it can be difficult to have consistency which is why I feel Derby need to invest in some experience to partner captain Richard Keogh at the heart of the defence. The recent comeback from Jamie Ward after his spell on the sidelines with a torn hamstring and with Jeff Hendricks outstanding recent form, scoring goals and getting a call up to the Republic of Ireland national squad has seen Derby fit back into that comfortable 4-4-2 formation. Maybe with Ward back Derby will be able to settle with a consistent front pair with Conor Sammon being the other main striker.

In my opinion Derby lack that bit of cutting edge in front of goal that every promoted side in past years have had for example, Southampton had Rickie Lambert banging the goals in for them, QPR had Adel Taarbat and Swansea had Scott Sinclair. I believe Derbys’ closest player to these names is Jamie Ward, he is determined, can take a chance and has a lot of ability. If Ward can stay fit for a whole season, which he has been struggling to do of late, I believe he will be the player to lead Derby up the table.

On the management side of things, I am always torn between whether I back Clough or not. Clough is very good at bringing youth players into the first team fold like Hughes, Hendrick and O’Brien as i’ve already said, but his man management skills have quite a few times been frowned upon for instance, the way he dealt with Chris Maguire and the way he has in the past picked out players in live post- match interviews and criticised the likes of Jeff Hendrick and former Ram Tomasz Cywka. However the style Clough plays has proved to be a strong point in my eyes as it is enjoyable to watch and a good pace.

In my opinion I would give Clough till the end of the season to see whether he can make a late push for the playoffs but if Derby remain ‘mid table’ their season will have been another standard season which lacks excitement, the attendances will go down yet again and there will be a very dull atmosphere at Pride Park. If this happens I believe its time for change with managers out there yet to have been poached this season like, Nigel Adkins and Paolo Di Canio. I believe that this could be the perfect time to move on.

Written by Dominic Dietrich, We Are Going Up’s Derby County Blogger

Dominic tweets at @domjdietrich

Crossing the A52 divide

Friday, September 16th, 2011

On Saturday the first meeting of the season between Nottingham Forest and Derby County will take place. Two clubs whose rivalry is one of the fiercest in English football meet at the City Ground in what will be a hotly contested Championship fixture. The cities of Nottingham and Derby are 14 miles apart and the close proximity of the two means there are plenty of bragging rights at stake across the East Midlands whenever they meet.

It is the first match fans of Forest and The Rams look for when the fixture list is released every season but the rivalry hasn’t always been as strong as it is now. It was on the whole a friendly affair during the early years of the Football League in the late 1800’s and the two contested the 1898 FA Cup Final, Forest emerging victorious by a 3-1 scoreline, but due to success at different periods of their existences, up until the 1960’s they only played each other on sixteen occasions.

Since the 1969/70 season, when both clubs were in the First Division, they have contested seventeen league seasons in the same league, twelve in the top flight and five in the second tier. The fixture returning to the top flight calendar coincided with the rivalry developing and it began to grow further when Brian Clough, who guided Derby to the First Division title in 1972, took over as manager at Forest in 1975, much to the anger of Rams’ fans.

Derby is a one club city and whilst Forest’s nearest neighbours are Notts County, the Reds have only played them on occasion in the modern era and therefore stoked up a rivalry with the team from down the other end of the A52.

Since the Second World War some 30 players have represented both Derby and Forest, enjoying varying amounts of success. Both sets of fans are passionate and certainly don’t enjoy seeing a former favourite turning out for their great rivals. Here I take a look at some names who have spent time with Nottingham Forest and Derby County, beginning with a man who brought fantastic success to both…..

Derby County 1967 – 1973, Nottingham Forest 1975 – 1993

Mention the name to Brian Clough to any Derby County or Nottingham Forest fan and you’ll hear nothing but adoration for the maverick manager who transformed the fortunes of both clubs in remarkable fashion.

He joined Derby from Hartlepools United in May 1967 alongside great friend and assistant Peter Taylor with the club languishing in the second tier, having been there for ten seasons. Instantly Clough and Taylor rang the changes at the Baseball Ground, bringing in a host of new players including Roy McFarland, John McGovern and Dave Mackay. By 1968, Clough guided Derby to the Second Division title and with it a place in the top tier of English football. He took them to 4th in their first season back in the elite but it was in 1972 his greatest Derby accomplishment came, the League Championship. Derby saw off the challenge of the dominant Leeds United and Liverpool to deliver a first league title to the Rams in their 88-year history. Unfortunately his career at the club went downhill as he fell out with the board and resigned in 1973, along with Taylor.

After that 44 day stint at Leeds United and a short spell with Brighton and Hove Albion, Clough was appointed boss at Nottingham Forest who, like Derby, were rooted in the bottom half of Division Two. Clough brought in many trusted recruits from Derby including McGovern and O’Hare, finishing 8th in his first full season. Taylor linked up again with Clough in July 1976 and it was there the magic began. In 1977 Forest finished 3rd and were promoted to the top flight. New arrivals in the form of England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, Kenny Burns and ex-Derby midfielder Archie Gemmill strengthened a squad which took the top flight by storm – Forest becoming League Champions just a season after promotion, finishing eight points ahead of Liverpool in second, whom they also beat in the League Cup final.

In 1979, along with defending the League Cup, Forest embarked on their first season in the European Cup and won it, defeating Malmo in the final and in 1980 they did it again, defending their title with a 1-0 victory over Hamburg in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. An unbelievable period of success considering where Forest were when Clough took over. Considering he could only take Derby as far as the semi-finals of Europe’s top competition after a controversial semi-final defeat to Juventus, the greater success he had at Forest angered the Derby faithful and went someway to creating the rivalry between the two sides.

Clough left Forest in 1993 and retired from management altogether but his achievements in Nottingham and Derby have left legacies by which all succeeding Forest and County managers are expected to live up to, as impossible as that may be nowadays. Clough sadly died in 2004 but his achievements will never be forgotten and whenever the teams meet, the winners take home the Brian Clough Trophy. The A52 road which separates Nottingham and Derby has also been renamed Brian Clough Way, a fitting tribute to the man who made Derby and Forest two of the best teams in the game.

Derby County 1967 – 1973 & 1982 – 1984, Nottingham Forest 1976 – 1982

Nottingham-born Peter Taylor was Brian Clough’s assistant at both Derby and Forest and played a key role in the success of both teams. While Clough would mould players into teams with his quite individual management style, Taylor had an eye for players, finding rough diamonds for Clough to polish into top-level performers. He once said of their partnership “I am the shop window, he is the goods in the back” alluding to the work Taylor did behind the scenes, spotting potential in players and helping them fulfil it.

He resigned from Derby alongside Clough in 1973 but wouldn’t team up with his good friend until arriving at the City Ground in 1976 where he helped Forest sweep all before them in a trophy-laden four year spell between 1977 and 1981. He retired from football in May 1982 but six months later was lured back to the Baseball Ground, taking over as Derby County manager to the surprise of many in the game, including Clough.

Although the two parted company on good terms, their relationship turned sour when, in May 1983, Taylor signed Forest winger John Robertson, apparently without telling Brian Clough, who was on holiday at the time. The two would never speak again and never got the chance to reconcile their differences as Taylor passed away suddenly in October 1990.

Nottingham Forest 1984 – 1993 & 1996 – 1997, Derby County 2009 – present

The Clough family are synonymous with the Forest Derby rivalry, with both father and son spending time with both sides and living in Derby throughout their time in the East Midlands. Nigel was one of Forest’s greatest ever strikers, playing over 400 times for the club in two spells, scoring 131 goals. Having been given his debut by his dad in 1984, Clough junior’s predatory instincts and intelligent link-up play made him a firm favourite at the City Ground before he moved to Liverpool following Forest’s relegation from the top flight in 1993.

Having helped Burton Albion on their way to promotion to the Football League during an eleven year spell as manager, he followed in his father’s footsteps and became Derby County manager in January 2009, to the delight of the Rams’ faithful who saw it as a homecoming for the son of their legendary former manager.

Clough’s appointment at Pride Park was met with a mixed response in Nottingham, some fans left disappointed to see a club legend take over at their rivals. After Derby beat Forest twice in Clough’s first half-season as boss and a few heated words were exchanged between him and Forest boss Billy Davies, Clough went down in the estimations of some Forest followers, even more so during Derby’s 1-0 win over Forest at Pride Park in 2010. A melee ensued on the touchline between members of both clubs and Clough was accused by Davies of kneeing the Forest manager in the back of the leg. The Clough factor has added an extra spice to the Derby match in recent years and despite not enjoying much success with the club so far due to a lack of investment, he is slowly building a side looking to break into the top half of the Championship.

Nottingham Forest 1970 – 1983 & 1985 – 1986, Derby County 1983 – 1985

John Robertson is one of Nottingham Forest’s all-time great players. The left-winger played over 400 matches for The Reds and under the management of Brian Clough, became one of the best players in Europe, scoring the winning goal as Forest won the European Cup in 1980.

Robertson – whilst not the quickest – was a tricky, creative winger with an eye for goal. He turned opposition full-backs inside out and could deliver telling crosses with either left or right foot. He was also a clinical penalty taker. The creative spark in a hugely successful Forest team, Robertson won a League Championship, two League Cups, a Charity Shield, two European Cups and the Super Cup during his time at the club.

In 1983 he joined Derby County for a fee set by tribunal, but it was the transfer which sparked the bitter Clough/Taylor row and his time at the Baseball Ground was far less successful. As Derby slid into mid-table mediocrity in the second tier, the Scottish international suffered injuries which hampered his playing time and he went back to Forest on a free transfer in 1985, where he stayed for another year.

Nottingham Forest 1987 – 1993, Derby County 1993 – 1995

Gary Charles launched his career with Nottingham Forest in 1987, going on to make 56 appearances for the club in six years at the City Ground. The speedy right-back competed with Brian Laws for a full-back slot in the team and eventually left the club for Derby County in 1993 after Forest were relegated from the Premier League into Division One.

Forest and Derby were now in the same division after Forest’s relegation from the Premier League and in April 1994, Forest travelled to the Baseball Ground, seeking a win which would virtually guarantee them an instant promotion back to the top flight. Having taken the lead through Colin Cooper’s fiercely struck free-kick, Gary Charles, now in the white of Derby County, scored a comical own-goal, misplacing a backpass straight into his own net past the goalkeeper to gift his former employers a 2-0 victory, much to the delight of the travelling Forest faithful.

Derby County 2002 – 2006, Nottingham Forest 2008 – present

Nottingham Forest’s current first-choice goalkeeper Lee Camp was born and bred in Derby and came through the youth ranks at Pride Park before making his Rams’ debut in 2002. After a string of impressive performances he received England under-21 honours but was allowed to join Queens Park Rangers in 2007 after comments he and his dad made about the club’s coaching staff soured his relationship with the team and fans.

Having struggled to hold down a first-team place at Loftus Road, Camp joined a struggling Nottingham Forest side on loan in October 2008 for three months, playing a pivotal role in as the club pulled itself out of the bottom three in the Championship. On November 2nd 2008, Derby played host to Forest in the first meeting between the two sides for three years – a match which ended in controversy.

With the scores at 1-1 late in the game Derby saw a goal disallowed by young referee Stuart Atwell, who awarded a penalty to the hosts instead. Nacer Barazite stepped forward but Derby fan Camp palmed away the effort and pumped his fists in celebration. He then pulled off a spectacular diving save from the resulting corner, clearly revelling in his return to Pride Park. Derby put the ball in the net from the next corner but the goal was also disallowed and the match ended 1-1. Camp’s place in Forest folklore was well and truly secured.

A hero to Reds fans, ‘Campy’ returned to Forest permanently for a £100,000 fee in the summer of 2009, making over 100 appearances in goal to date.

Nottingham Forest 2004 – 2008, Derby County 2008 – 2011

Talented winger Kris Commons joined Nottingham Forest from Stoke City in August 2004 and immediately caught the eye with some spectacular goals and excellent range of passing. A Forest fan born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, Commons became a key figure of the team despite relegation to League One in 2005.

He remained at the City Ground and was a stand-out performer during Forest’s stay in the third tier, eventually helping them to a dramatic final-day promotion back to the Championship in 2008, scoring the second goal as Forest beat Yeovil 3-2 at the City Ground. Commons’ performances caught the eye of teams in the division above and with his Forest contract expiring that summer, the Reds board wanted to see what league Forest would play in before submitting an offer to the left-sided midfielder.

Commons did not sign a new Forest deal and in June completed a controversial move to Derby County. The Forest fans were unhappy to see their star player and self-admitted Reds fan move join the Rams, while Derby were glad to poach the attacking midfielder on a free transfer. Commons came back to haunt his former employers, scoring the winning goal in a 3-2 FA Cup 4th round replay win at the City Ground, Derby coming back from 2-0 down to secure their first win at Forest since 1971. Commons enjoyed facing Forest and scored at the City Ground again in December 2010, a consolation strike as his side lost 5-2, but the Scotland international still took the opportunity to goad the Forest faithful after scoring, further adding to their dislike of the former Red. Not long after he joined Celtic for a fee of £300,000.

Derby County 2007 – 2008, Nottingham Forest 2008 – 2011

A prolific goalscorer in the Football League, Robert Earnshaw joined Derby County for a £3.5 million fee from Norwich City in 2007. Having just been promoted to the Premier League, Derby were seeking goals to stave off relegation and moved to sign Earnshaw, who previously played at that level with West Bromwich Albion.

However his time with Derby was unsuccessful as the club had a torrid season, relegated to the Championship having won just one match, ending up with the worst points tally of any team in the Premier League. Earnshaw was in and out of the side and scored just twice for Derby, claiming it was his worst season in football.

In the summer of 2008 Earnshaw became the first player to be transferred between Derby County and Nottingham Forest for 15 years, since Gary Charles in 1993. He regained his scoring form at the City Ground, netting 43 times in 111 appearances over three years. Billy Davies, the man who signed him for Derby County, was manager at Forest for two seasons and saw Earnshaw net three times against Derby last season – twice in Forest’s 5-2 thrashing of their former club in December 2010 and the winning goal in the 1-0 win at Pride Park three weeks later.

The Welsh international endeared himself to the Forest faithful despite his Derby connections before leaving for first club Cardiff City on a free transfer in July 2011.

Derby County 2006 – 2007, Nottingham Forest 2009 – 2011

Scottish manager Billy Davies joined Derby County from Preston North End in June 2006. Derby had struggled in the Championship since being relegated from the Premier League in 2002, appointing a man who’d taken Preston to the play-offs for the previous two seasons to try and turn around their fortunes. In his first season with the Pride Park side, Davies steered Derby to 3rd in the league and a play-off semi-final victory over Southampton.

In the final against West Bromwich Albion at Wembley, midfielder Stephen Pearson netted the only goal as Derby were promoted to the top flight for the first time in five years. After a poor start to Premier League life, Davies publicly criticised the board for a lack of investment and left the club by mutual consent in November 2007, 14 games into the season. Derby would go on to be relegated come the end of the campaign.

On December 31 2008, Nottingham Forest announced they were in talks with Davies to take over as manager after sacking Colin Calderwood and on New Years’ Day 2009, Davies was officially confirmed as Forest boss. Sections of the Forest support were unhappy to see a man who’d had success with Derby become their new manager, amid fears dour football would soon be on its way to the City Ground. Nigel Clough had also been linked with the vacancy, but days late became manager at Pride Park.

Initial fears over the Scot’s appointment were soon banished. Davies encouraged Forest to play a fluid, passing game and he guided a young side to Championship safety in 2009. After bringing in new faces, Davies’ first full season in charge ended with Forest finishing 3rd, where they lost to Blackpool in the play-off semi-finals. With Davies now at the helm, matches against previous club Derby had an extra edge to them, particularly with Forest legend Nigel Clough in the opposing dugout. Davies stoked up the competitive nature of the fixture and passions overflowed on occasion, with players and staff clashing in two different matches, including choice words exchanged between the managers.

Davies led Forest to the play-offs again in 2010-11 and on the way saw his team beat Derby 5-2 at home, then complete the double as the Reds won at Pride Park for the first time, Robert Earnshaw’s volley earning a 1-0 success. The passionate Davies enjoyed facing his former employers but, as with Derby, he frequently criticised the Forest board over a lack of investment in the team and was eventually shown the door in June 2011, bringing an end to an eventful two-and-a-half years in charge.

Nottingham Forest 2006 – 2011, Derby County 2011 – present

Nathan Tyson became the latest man to move to the opposite end of the Brian Clough Way in June 2011, signing a three-year contract with Derby County having rejected a new deal at Forest. The pacy striker’s most telling contribution in the East Midlands derby caused controversy in August 2009 after Forest beat Derby 3-2 at the City Ground. Tyson scored the Reds’ third goal and at the final whistle, proceeded to go on a lap of honour around the pitch carrying a corner flag emblazoned with the Forest badge.

He began by running in front of the Bridgford End, in front of several thousand travelling Rams fans. They were incensed as too were the Derby players who confronted Tyson, sparking a scuffle in the penalty area involving players and coaches from each side. Both teams were fined for their actions, Tyson receiving a £5,000 fine and suspended two-match suspended ban due to his behaviour. It was a moment of course savoured by the Forest faithful and hardly endeared Tyson to the Derby supporters.

However two summers later he would soon be linking up with Forest’s rivals, stating his excitement at playing for what he called “an impressive football club.” Forest fans were not too aggrieved to see Tyson go, even when joining the Rams, but they soon will be if he finds the net against them on Saturday. He has yet to play a league match for Nigel Clough’s side due to injury but now fully recovered, it looks as if he will – as is so often the case – make his debut against his former side.

Many other players have represented both Derby County and Nottingham Forest, including Forest European Cup winners Peter Shilton, John McGovern and Kenny Burns. In recent years the trend has continued with the likes of Lars Bohinen, Dean Saunders, Marcus Tudgay (who netted twice against Derby for the Reds last season) and Dexter Blackstock turning out for the two rivals, however not all players are so willing to make the move.

In the summer Forest’s French midfielder Guy Moussi was linked with a move to Derby County after stalling on a new contract but said of the speculation: “I don’t want to be rude but I could not have gone to Derby. It was impossible.” Moussi remained at the City Ground as new manager Steve McClaren persuaded him to stay, putting pen to paper on a new three-year deal.

McClaren himself is another who has spent time with both clubs. He was assistant to Derby manager Jim Smith between 1995 and 1999, enjoying success as The Rams were promoted to the Premier League and established themselves in the top flight, before moving to Manchester United. Upon his arrival at Forest McClaren mentioned the significance of local rivalries – he knows all about their importance thanks to his time spent with Derby.

According to a survey on football rivalries Nottingham Forest and Derby County is the eleventh fiercest rivalry in English football, with nine out of ten fans from both clubs pointing to the other as their fiercest rival. Despite this many players have represented both teams and will no doubt continue to do so in the future.

There will be no love lost when the sides step out of that City Ground tunnel on Saturday afternoon. The anticipation ahead of such derbies is always great and further adds to the occasion – with local pride at stake during the 90 minutes it will no doubt be an entertaining spectacle.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

The start of something probably not that special?

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

To the utmost extent that one such as I could ever seek to judge another, I’d be inclined to suggest that anyone who thought that the surreal headline of Derby County making ‘their best start for 106 years’ was sufficient to guarantee not just promotion into the Premier League, but was indicative of the instigation of another golden age of football in the Midlands, was perhaps being slightly optimistic. We know it’s never that easy with Derby.

To take nothing away from the team, it really has been a great start to the season. The opening game against Birmingham City, resulting in a 2-1 home win, particularly having come back from a goal down, was a good solid win. Following this was a cup loss, which does not need to be discussed here, or in fact anywhere, ever, but more important by far were the two away leagues fixtures, at Watford and then Blackpool. Two 1-0 wins proved all that was necessary to put Derby all but top of the table, lagging behind on naught but goal difference, although perhaps a more significant margin in either of the games would have been more comforting. Never liked 1-0 results much; smacks of luck, and anyone who remembers the run which led to our brief stint in the Premiership a few years back will remember that getting there on the back of repeated 1-0 wins isn’t necessarily the most well thought through of ideas.

Rather more resolute was the decisive 3-0 win against Doncaster Rovers. Although perhaps not the best performance we’ve ever produced it was nonetheless solid, and some good teamwork led to the creation and finishing of some good chances, including a good display of ability by Ben Davies. In any event, a recent spate of losses against Doncaster was not sufficient to impact the morale of the team, which seemed to be running quite high on the back of these results, and it was certainly an excellent start to the season as the teams started to distance themselves from each other.

Burnley, however, appeared to be a bridge too far. Although clearly a fixture which shouldn’t be taken for granted, it should have been a win, particularly considering we were unbeaten, they were anything but, and we had the home advantage. Unfortunately a slow first half for us, along with a conceded goal, proved to be sufficient to deprive us of a fifth successive win, although an equaliser, unfortunately almost immediately negated by Birmingham, came in the last 20 minutes of the game. Overall, disappointing, as I’m sure many would agree.

Our unbeaten run this season is over. I doubt many of you genuinely expected it to last, or for us to maintain a consistent top two position for the remainder of the season, at least based on such a small number of games. I said at the start of the season that a play-off position is something I’d take, and to be honest, I’d take it right now if it was offered, but we’ll have to wait and see to determine just how sound such a decision would have been.

On a more positive note, Frank Fielding has made a great start to the season, and has been rewarded for his no doubt herculean efforts by being asked to represent the full England team. He clearly will be invaluable to us this season, and hopefully any experience he gains with England can be applied at Derby, although as always with goalkeepers, the fewer opportunities to shine, the better, I’d say.

So along with some truly exceptional goals, it’s been a pretty good start. The next month certainly looks challenging enough to suggest that the players really are going to have to step up to the mark if they want to come out from any of the games as winners. Both Coventry and Forest away, the next two games we need to play, will be a real test, hopefully allowing us to get a more rounded picture of the standard of football the team are playing. Coventry will be televised as well, so if there’s an ideal opportunity to shine, that game will be it.

Straight after is Millwall, albeit at home, followed by Barnsley, also on the same terms. You’d like to think we stand a decent chance of coming away with some points from either of those two games, preferably max points from both, but I think this will depend heavily on what we get out of the away matches. Going into either of the home fixtures on the back of 3 poor results will certainly have an effect, and to be honest I doubt the Boss’ ability when it comes to motivating a team, based on his previous performance.

So all in all it should be an interesting month, and perhaps more indicative of how we’ll fair in the long run than the opening month has been. We’ll see, but I’m trying my best to stay optimistic, I really am…

Written by Tom Cruse, We Are Going Up’s Derby County Blogger

Optimism – The last hope of the defeated?

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Derby County is an old club, with a fair amount of history to its name. One of the founder members of the Football League, and with an FA Cup, two League Championships and a controversial European Cup Semi Final under its belt, The Rams are a club with experience of playing some of the best football the world has ever seen, and at the very highest level. Regrettably, tragically, and, dare I say it, deservedly, they have in recent years garnered something of a reputation for playing some of the worst.

However, with around a week to go now until the start of the 2011-2012 season, anticipation is high for what I’m sure we all know will go down in history as one of the greatest seasons the club has ever known; potentially eclipsing even that of the ’72 First Division win.  You have to be optimistic as a Derby fan…

Last season’s dismal 19th place finish has unfortunately done absolutely nothing to challenge this conception amongst the footballing naive, but this shall change. It must.

It remains to be seen just what can be done to turn it all around at Pride Park. With 23 losses last season, more than any club outside the relegation zone, and with 71 goals given away overall, serious changes are needed on the pitch if we intend to challenge even for an unambitious top half finish, let alone a play-off position or automatic promotion spot. We’re now pretty sound financially, so if a push is gonna come, it’s gotta come now.

With regard to changes at Pride Park this season, it might be worth mentioning first the decision by Tom Glick, the CEO and hereafter known as the Chief, to try and appoint a new Director of Football. Specifically what he hopes to achieve by this he unfortunately hasn’t elaborated on, but it would be reasonable to assume that it would be to aid Cloughie in the acquisition of new players, and maybe to oversee and help implement the changes on the field which are clearly required. It might even help smooth the traditionally taut relationship between team and club management, something which Cloughie’s Dad knew and understood well, despite being something he constantly railed at.

Glick announced this roughly a month after he first came out and stated that he was looking to invest in players this summer, along with that unashamedly capitalist technique of offering a ‘money back guarantee’ to season ticket holders who weren’t happy with the purchases that had been made by the start of the season. Who said football wasn’t a business? However, it seems to have gone all quiet on the DoF front, with no appointment made at the time of writing, and so it might be prudent to now take a look at the transfers already made and attempt to glean what we can about the strategy they intend to implement at Derby this season, and what kind of a team they are building.

There’ve been a few Outs at Derby this summer, but perhaps the one which has generated the most noise this summer has been the retirement and therefore departure of captain Robbie Savage, one of the very few men in modern football whose reputation genuinely does precede him. Robbie Savage started playing football decades ago, and for the vast majority of that time, I, along with what appears to be most of the footballing world, have hated him with a passion. As is often the case with players like this, we change our minds when they join our clubs but the impact of his presence on the field in a Championship game could never be overstated, and the wealth of experience he undoubtedly brought to the dressing room is something I imagine will be sorely missed.

Miles Addison, who, having been unfortunately beset by injury for most of the past two years, returned to match fitness for the last few month of the 2010-2011 season, has been released on loan to Barnsley. Although this might not sound like a massive vote of confidence, the Chief says he remains part of Derby’s long term plans with the loan move designed to get him back to required level of sharpness, a statement that it might be wise not to completely dismiss out of hand, especially in light of his recent 2 year contract extension to take him up to 2013. But he’s a lad with some promise, and at 6ft 3in is a veritable mountain of a man who I’m sure would grace many a back line. Would it be too cynical to suggest that if we receive a good enough offer for him, it’s bye-bye Miles?  We’ll see.

Of the others to have left Pride Park this season, such as Luke Varney who spent last season on loan at Blackpool, as well as Greg Mills, Chris Porter, Arnaud Mendy and Ben Pringle, it is unlikely any of them will be particularly sorely missed in the long run, but what is perhaps more surprising is that we’ve raised precisely £0 and 0p from outgoing transfers. Nothing worth selling, or are the more valuable players simply too valuable to us? You be the judge.

So now we get to the all-important crux of the matter. Who have we bought, what impact will they have, and will it be sufficient to avoid fans exercising that notorious guarantee.

The acquisition of experienced striker Nathan Tyson, whose contract with Forest expired this summer, should definitely bring something to the squad. Whether this something will actually be something worth having, considering his titanic tally of 2 goals from 32 league appearances last season, remains to be seen.

A signing which appears to have excited the Chief is that of the apparently quite sought-after defender Jason Shackell, formerly of Barnsley FC. Although the final fee remains undisclosed (this appears to standard practice now, but it does make attempting to assess the merits of the purchase notably more difficult), it is rumoured to be between £750,000 and £1m. This is a hefty whack of cash, but since Cloughie was keen on signing him too, I think this one could prove to be a decent bit of business. As always time will tell.

Jamie Ward, a loanee who’s been with us since February, has now joined us on a 2 year contract, not unsurprising since the Blades, his old club, took the plunge. I’ve a friend who waxes lyrical about this guy, but since he’s played a few games for us now, I’m sure you all have your own opinions on him and his ability. However, having scored a few goals in his relatively short time here, I’d argue he clearly has the potential to contribute something to the team.

Of the others to have joined the club this summer, such as Theo Robinson, another retained loanee, and Frank Fielding, a promising youngish keeper who’s made a few U21 appearances for England, and who Cloughie has stated will be the first choice goalkeeper this season. We paid £400k for him, which has the potential to be a modest sum if he can really shine, which I think he just might do. Adam Legzdins, a Latvian who’s recently joined us from Burton, will be his backup.

Finally, another two who I remain on the fence about are the Scots Craig Bryson and Chris Maguire. I’m told Bryson can be quite dynamic in midfield, and should adapt well to Championship -level football. Maguire I’m told is a trier. Take from that what you will.

Overall, there’s been some interesting activity over the past few months, and not what I’d call overly ambitious. The purchases perhaps would be best described as considered, rather than outwardly excellent, but I, as always, remain optimistic.

Winning with players that people have never heard is something that Derby have traditionally done quite well indeed, although less so in recent years. At this stage it’s hard to call, but Cloughie seems to have built a team he’s more satisfied with than any he has before, and although he’s taken some stick recently, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt at least until the effects of these changes begin to play out.

Written by Tom Cruse, We Are Going Up’s Derby County Blogger