I’ve recently started driving lessons at the bizarre age of 30. During my tender early lessons, my instructor occasionally had to reach over and gently guide the wheel to where it was supposed to be, tap the breaks on the dual controlled Ford and generally keep me from careering into a brick wall or fleshy human being. This feels like the safe and correct way to begin my foray into moving large pieces of machinery about at high speeds.
Let’s say I ignored the traditional way of doing things. Let’s imagine that I came into a substantial sum of money, went out and bought myself an old but beautifully looked after car. Nothing top of the range, maybe a Mini that has had several previous loving owners. They have collectively spent years affectionately improving the vehicle, increasing the engine power and aesthetic value of the car at considerable but not obscene personal cost. I take this well-loved motor, sod the driving lessons off, drink 5 pints and take it out for a spin, slamming it into several sheds/houses/people before pulling over the smoking husk of a vehicle and asking the police what the problem seems to be.
Hopefully you can see where I’m clumsily going with this. Mel Morris, a man who I have no doubt is well intentioned and a genuine lover of the club and city, has taken the wheel at Derby County and proceeded to ignore all accepted logic that one would usually follow when running a football club. The events of the past week have left me simultaneously exasperated, confused, amazed and submissive. I feel like the joy of supporting Derby County is being sapped from me, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.
Darren Wasall strikes me as a good bloke. A man who is passionate about football, Derby and success. However, many of the 30,000 Derby fans who show up week in, week out to watch our stale, turgid football also strike me as decent, passionate folk. Being nice and caring are not the primary prerequisites for a job in football, otherwise Barney the Dinosaur would have a hat full of Champion’s League medals by now. The decision to appoint him as PERMANENT manager of the team with so much of the season to go is one that is so at odds with logic or common sense I can only assume that it has been done for financial reasons rather than footballing ones. It’s as if Mel Morris spent a million pounds building a beautiful mansion and forgot to leave any money aside to put the doors on. So he popped to Chad Park and offered some kids a fiver and a can of Monster each to keep an eye on the place while he saved up the cash.
Rotherham was an embarrassment. The kind of football match that makes you question why you bother with the sport at all. A capitulation the likes I haven’t seen since, ironically, Stevie Mac popped into our dressing room at half time and inspired a sensational comeback against Ipswich at the iPro. How odd that since he left the club it’s been downhill for us and downhill for him. Call the man whatever you like (focus on his hair please), but we haven’t seen that level of drive and fight in Derby once since he left. Not once. The very concept of a come from behind victory seems laughable. The Rotherham collapse HAS to be blamed on DW (“Hey! DW!”). His substitutions were utterly confounding, and they cost us the game. Whether it was arrogance, inexperience or plain stupidity, something had to be done to rectify it. Who ya gonna call…?
Harry Redknapp may be a man of experience and knowledge, but there’s a lot of talk in football at the minute about managers who the game has moved beyond. Louis Van Gaal, one of the most decorated managers in the history of European football has become a laughing stock and a tactical dinosaur. Arsene Wenger, a man once thought of as a revolutionary both on the pitch and behind the scenes is seen as stale and clueless by his own adoring fans. If modern football has left these genuine greats at the station, it hasn’t even bothered to tell Harry there’s a train.
Redknapp has arrived at Derby to advise Wassall, apparently at DW’s request. Oh but he will also be coaching the Jordan national team during the international break by the way. What even is this deal? What is this situation? What is life? A former manager who faced court proceedings over his dog’s bank account and left QPR because his knee hurt has joined our club to tell our manager not to put two strikers on when you’re 3-0 up away. I can’t remember ever seeing anything like it in football.
Promotion might not be Mel’s priority. Honestly, it isn’t mine either. A friend of mine is a Blackburn Rovers fan. The night they beat Middlesbrough he was absolutely buzzing. It didn’t propel them into the promotion picture or drag them away from the relegation zone, he was just taking pleasure in one victory over a top side. He was enjoying football for what it is, two teams pitted against each other for 90 minutes. Whether it’s down to the cash injection, the ownership, the management or our own expectations, we have lost this simple love of the game, and I envied his joy that night.
The Forest is looming large. I can’t recall ever going into a derby match being this clueless as to what will happen. It will almost be worth the price of admission just to see the debacle unfold. Two historic clubs, united and divided by their equal adoration of an irreplaceable legend, clashing for the final time this season without a manager, or a clue, between them. Even if we were to replicate the 5-0 of McClaren’s era, I know for certain that I will not renew my season ticket. Why should I invest in a club that can’t be bothered to invest in itself?