I am currently writing this, sat on the East Midlands Trains service, back to Liverpool. I travelled down to Derby this morning, on the train for three hours, and I am now facing another 3-hour journey back to university. The ticket cost me over £50, but I thought it would be worth, because I thought today would be different. I thought today would be the day the players felt comfortable enough to express themselves a bit more. I thought today just might be the day that the goals started to flow, and we saw some slick, high tempo passing. I thought we would see the ‘Derby Way’, the thing that we have all been promised, and the thing that Paul Clement supposedly lost his job over.
Instead, I spent over £50, for a 6 hour round trip, broken up by 2 hours sat in the freezing cold, watching 11 individuals play hoofball, many of whom clearly just don’t give a shit anymore. I sat through a performance, which was a mixture of a team that has no identity and no confidence, sprinkled with one or two performances of mind-numbing laziness. Yes, I’m talking to you Tom Ince. I wrote an article not that long ago for Joel, over at dcfcpodcast.com, about why Ince still needs to play, and it’s only a matter of time before his true quality shines. It becomes more and more apparent with each passing game that I was tragically mistaken. He looks perfectly comfortable to pick up what I can only imagine is a substantial wage packet, and maintain a poor level of performance. He seems like the sort of guy whose performances will pick up when he is fighting for a contract, but when he gets that contract, any whiff of that motivation is gone. Sort of like an English Emanuel Adebayor.
The only player today who I think deserve a mention that involves any form of positive connotation is Marcus Olsson, who I thought was excellent. Constantly a threat down that left hand side; his direct running and blistering speed gave MK Dons something to worry about, but the quality of the ball was either lacking, or there simply was not enough bodies in the box. Keogh and Shackell were both decent, as was Christie, but none did anything to write home about. Hendrick and Bryson in midfield showed a lot of huff and buff, but neither offered much by way of quality, apart from a snap-shot by Hendrick towards the end of the first half, which deserved someone to be getting on the rebound, but again, a lack of bodies in the box was an issue. I’ve talked enough about Ince already, and I would rather not think about the guy anymore. On the other side, Johnson looked promising out on the left, tried fairly hard, but wasn’t any huge improvement than the Johnson we have seen in recent weeks. The same goes for Martin and Russell too, which is perhaps an indictment in itself of these players. Where was the improvement? Where was this freedom to express themselves that were told we’d be seeing?
I think a few people were expecting the situation to be similar to what occurred at Chelsea earlier in the season, where the disconnect between players and manager was obvious, and as soon as the manager had gone, the players began to play with copious amounts of freedom, essentially, the players threw up a big middle finger to Mourinho. This was not the case today. The players looked exactly the same under Wassall than they did under Clement.
I’m not sure where the Club goes from here to be perfectly honest. The signs suggest there is something inherently wrong at Derby County right now, whether that is with the playing staff, or something behind the scenes, I don’t know. I don’t feel confident going into next Saturday either. Brentford may not be the team they were under Warburton last year, but they’re no mugs, and I fancy my five-a-side team against our lot at the minute.
Just to finish, this is the second article I have written for the Ramcast, and as with my previous article, it is not as cohesive a piece as I would like to have written, considering I aspire to become a sports journalist in the future, but that is because I am emotional. As with the majority of Derby fans, and football fans in general, my club is my passion. I shell out a lot of money every year, on top of the season ticket, to watch this club play. My emotional investment is high, and I don’t think it is much to ask that the players on the pitch show a fraction of the emotional investment I have put into the club, something that has been sorely lacking this year.