Why Derby County fans must stick with this rebuild for the greater good.

“A founder member of the league and twice champions of England, Derby County have fallen on hard times since their relegation from the Premier League in 2008. The road back to the top has proved to be a difficult one, but under Dutch coach Philip Cocu, they may be primed for a return to the big time.”

Let’s face facts here, Derby since the early noughties have spent the majority of their time playing second tier football. Since relegation from The Premier League in 2001/02 Derby have only featured in the English football’s top tier for one year, the ill-fated 07/08 season. “The Rams” then spent multiple uninspiring but steady seasons under the stewardship of Nigel Clough. Clough’s main task was trying to trim down an unsustainable wage budget and overly large playing squad. In September 2013 Clough was sacked and replaced by former England manager Steve McClaren. Derby shot up the table eventually finishing in 3rd with a squad comprised of players mainly assembled by Clough over the course of his tenure, Craig Bryson, Richard Keogh, Chris Martin, Lee Grant, John Brayford and many more the season ended with play-off heartbreak (a common theme) against QPR, the devastating blow, a last minute Bobby Zamora goal.

Whilst Derby then went on to contest the play-offs on 3 more occasions in the next 5 seasons the common thought is that we missed the boat in 2013/14.

When Mel Morris completed his takeover of the club in 2015 the club spent an unprecedented amount of money in the preceding transfer windows. Managers and players alike came and went and while many came close (some closer than others) all failed to get the club back to the promised land of The Premier League.

In June 2019 Dutch footballing legend Phillip Cocu took the reigns in the crazy East Midlands. He came in to an extremely challenging situation, one which continued to get more and more complicated as the season went on. Cocu was provided with club-record signing Krystian Bielik, highly touted premier league loanee Matt Clarke and most amazingly of all English record goalscorer Wayne Rooney to come in January. Some fans were predicting a play-off push, some predicted a mid-table finish. Nobody could have predicted what was to come on and off the field over the course of the coming season.

A car crash which caused the loss through injury and eventual sacking of club captain Richard Keogh, a day in front of a judge for attacking players Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett, an EFL charge for financial irregularities, the emergence of some exciting youngsters, reemergence of old faces and the small matter of a 3 month interruption in the season due to a pandemic. At the end of a season which ended almost a whole year after it began Derby finished in 10th place after dreams of a late play-off run were quenched by an unforgiving run-in.

Everybody seemed to be in agreement Cocu had so far done a good job in extremely challenging circumstances. Now with a transfer window in which he was able to shift out some deadwood and bring in some players more to his taste. It was plainly obvious Derby needed pacy wide players, Polish international Kamil Jozwiak, and free agent Jordan Ibe were added to the ranks, Dutch centre back Mike Te Wierik joined on a free transfer, last seasons player of the season Matt Clarke returned on a second loan, Wigan duo David Marshall and Nathan Byrne coming in to bolster the goalkeeping and right back positions respectively. Whilst the previous season’s top scorer Chris Martin and the club failed to agree terms on a new deal the fans remained optimistic of the season ahead.

Derby have begun the season slowly losing five out of 6 league games conceding Nine goals and scoring only two. Their solitary win coming in a battling away victory against promotion favourites Norwich.

This warrior-like and dogged performance rubbishes the opinion that Cocu has “lost the dressing room” players not playing for the manager will not throw their bodies on the line like that. I do not believe that sacking Cocu will bring anything other than more financial burden to a club currently living outside its means and trying to cut costs.

I went into much larger detail on Nigel Clough’s time at Derby earlier in the piece as I believe that Cocu may not be the man that will eventually take this club back to the Premier League but I do believe he will be the unsung hero of such a return. He is laying a foundation for someone to succeed in the coming future. Whether that is the former PSV manager or not remains to be seen.

In conclusion I believe that if Derby press the reset button again and sack Cocu they will do a lot more harm than good. He needs time and patience, two things that are as rare as hens teeth in modern day football.

Football is “big business” and “big business” has no morals or rules

“For too long certain people have been trying to hijack football clubs in order to exploit fans financially or as part of larger more immoral scheme”

We all love our football clubs but do they love us? So often people all over the world will spend a large portion of their pay packet on season tickets, club merchandise and various other football related costs.

On average, using the cheapest adult option at every Premier League club a season ticket will set you back £503. That works out at £26 a game without all the regular external costs. West Ham United come in with the lowest season ticket price at £320. If you wish to be a loyal Arsenal fan, a spot in The Emirates cheap seats will total at £895.

In reality there should be no surprise that football owners are looking to exploit people for profit. This is how we ended up with professional football. Factory owners begun to pay workers to play football to avoid giving them their government mandated Saturday off.

If you were to look through the list of Premier League owners you would come across plenty of ruthless and tough business men and women. People who know how to take a business and run it at an extreme profit. Owning a football club can be a different situation though, some own one and view it as a business venture and nothing more, some use it as almost a toy like a fancy car to show off to their friends, some as a tool to distract from their behaviour away from sport and for some it is the culmination of all their life’s work and the fulfilling of a childhood dream owning their hometown club.

Now regardless of why a business person wishes to purchase a football club, we all hope they will have the best interest’s of the fans, club and the game as a whole at heart. Sadly this is not the case with many investors. Looking strictly at English football we see a wide range of people involved at ownership level in The Premier League, from Sheikh Mansoor a member of the UAE royal family to American business tycoons The Glazer family to professional gambler and property developer Tony Bloom. With the latter being a lifelong fan who saved his club Brighton and Hove Albion from extinction.

Now as evidenced by the ludicrous £14.95 PPV price being charged to fans to watch games that were not previously included in the broadcasters schedules it is clear that football is driven by one thing and one thing only money. 19 out of 20 Premier League clubs voted in favour of this charge (Leicester City the exception) with no allowances being made to season ticket holders or club members. With some clubs even continuing to take season ticket payments even though it looks unlikely we will see crowds of any sort in grounds for the remainder of this season.

Across the height of this pandemic certain Premier League football clubs attempted to place their staff on the UK governments furlough scheme. Champions Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur who generated profits of £42 million and £113 million respectively. Both clubs bowed to fan pressure eventually but that these clubs thought it to be acceptable to even attempt this was absolutely despicable. Arsenal football club this year announced they were making 55 staff redundant due to financial issues caused by Covid but exactly 2 months after that announcement was made they found a spare €50 million between the couch cushions to sign Ghanian international Thomas Partey.

Now in a time in which Marcus Rashford is taking on the Conservative Government almost single-handedly over the issue of food poverty it would be wrong to tar all of football with the one brush. It is the people at board level and above that I believe suffer from a tin ear especially in times like this.

Now so far I’ve only referenced the taking advantage of football supporters and people on a financial level but in the case of the Manchester City owners “The City Group” spearheaded by Sheikh Mansoor and the would be owners of Newcastle United The Saudi Royal family we really are reaching into the underbelly of society as a whole not just on a sporting level. These two groups have large and undeniably links to places with massive human rights violations, owning a football club for them is a way of distracting people from the atrocities committed in their home countries, a process known as “Sportswashing”.

Football is at a crossroads and it is one with irreversible consequences. If it decides to allow The Saudi Royal Family take over Newcastle United then I believe it is basically a shrug of the shoulders and twiddling of the thumbs from FIFA, UEFA and all the other organisations towards the rest of the world that says, “We don’t care who you are so long as you have money.”

That isn’t football that’s never been football. Now maybe I’m a naive romantic shouting up at the sky but I believe that football is yet to pass the point of no return, it can turn back but does it want to? I don’t think the powers that be really care about the morals of the game. When you see the now former Chairman of the Premier League Richard Scudamore taking home over £10 million in his final year of “service” in 2019 it makes you wonder does he or anyone else that high up even consider or know what the game is about at all.

In one sense football has never been healthier, there has never been as much money in the game, there has never been as many people watching or playing ( pre-pandemic) but as far as I’m concerned football is need of a dramatic shake-up or the game we once knew will be consigned to the ashes once and for all.

Breakfast at my House

During the week we’re often walking out the door with a coffee in one hand and slice of toast in the other, but on weekends breakfast is never rushed. It’s a late affair, sometimes spilling over to lunch, with lots of reading and chatter in between courses of fruits, poached eggs, honey and toast. One of our favorite things we like to serve when friends are visiting are buckwheat blueberry pancakes.

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