Posted by Barrie on Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The new Clough era at Derby County

Lots of football fans were criticising Derby County for hiring Nigel Clough in January after being embarrassed by Paul Jewell who lead them to 11 points in the Premier League the season before and towards relegation from the Championship last season. Clough's only previous managerial experience had been in the non-league, where he enjoyed a 10 year spell at Burton Albion, whom gained promotion from the conference to League One last season.

Following in his father's footsteps was always going to be impossible for Clough junior, but if we judge Nigel Clough for who he is and what he's done - and doing for Derby, he has the potential to make a great manager, even if everyone else wants to be ignorant and continue to compare him to his father.

Nigel Clough inherited Paul Jewell's crestfallen side when he took over in January, overlooking relegation for the second consecutive season. There was always expectation, from the fans and media following what success his father previously achieved at this club, and having been a Premier League side the season before. Jewell hadn't left him much to work with. A downbeat, unsettled squad with a losing mentality. He was aided with Derby's 1-0 victory over Manchester United in the Carling Cup semi finals before his first game in charge. He enjoyed initial success, winning 4 of his first 6 league games, with the team scoring 15 goals in those 4 victories, including a 3-1 victory over rivals Nottingham Forest, and a 3-2 victory over them in an FA Cup replay.

But when injuries picked up and a change of fortunes followed, Clough's side couldn't turn things around at the end of the season, winning just 2 of their final 11 games and playing badly in the process. Survival was ensured with their good run in February and the lack of points picked up by teams below them, but it came as a warning to Clough that this division isn't easy.

At the end of last season he stated he wanted to chop his squad by up to 17 players, and that started with moving on the likes of Andy Todd, Mile Sterjovski, Tyrone Mears and Emanuel Villa. Clough wants to bring stability to Derby County, something they haven't had in years with players moving in and out of the club freely over the past few seasons, much the same as their managers, with only George Burley completing 2 seasons since Jim Smith left in 2001; Nigel Clough being the 7th full time manager since then. He will need more than one summer to clear out all the deadwood in this side and create his own squad, but will Derby give him the time? Perhaps being Brian Clough's son will get him some extra time.

His signings haven't brought much optimism to Pride Park, mainly coming from the lower leagues. But on a low budget he's bringing in players who want to work for the club, something that has been missing in recent times. Whether they have the quality to survive in the Championship remains to be seen, but I think the fans will grow to appreciate them. The biggest signing Clough has made so far this off season has been the acquisition of Shaun Barker for £900,000 from Blackpool. If he and Miles Addison can form a strong partnership in the centre of the Rams defence, it will give them a solid base to build around.

Nigel Clough won't bring instant success like Billy Davies did for Derby. He spent 10 seasons in charge of Burton Albion, taking them from the Northern Premier League and aided them into the football league before leaving in January for a bigger challenge. His squad wasn't full of stars at that level either, but a hardworking team that bonded well. Something that Burnley and Hull City have had in this division in the past few seasons, and something Derby County didn't have under Paul Jewell. It will take more than a season to do so, but Clough has laid the first few bricks to make sure this team doesn't fall out of this division, whilst putting plans in shape to move up the table.

If given the time at Derby County, Nigel Clough can turn this club around. While they don't have the funds to bring in some stars, they have a manager who is capable of building a team to compete. Don't expect Derby to be near the top of the table this season, but expect them to be more organised and endeavoured this season, and perhaps break the losing mentality that has hit Pride Park for the last 2 seasons.

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