Crowd Control: Derby County's Season Ticket Teaser
Derby County supporters have become accustomed to spin at this time of the year. Season ticket sale time. It has seemed to work over recent seasons, with around 29,000 season tickets being sold for the 2008/09 season, 26,000 for the 2009/10 season and 23,000 for the current campaign. Joel Clyne gives the lowdown on the challenge ahead at Pride Park.
In theory, Derby should have been able to compete in the Championship following their relegation from the Premier League. Not the case. The Rams finished in a meagre 18th place despite being promised promotion by manager Paul Jewell. More talk to get bums on seats?
January 2009 saw the arrival of Nigel Clough. Results and performances picked up, giving fans more false hope for the following season. Again, fans stumped up the cash for another season of mediocrity possibly charmed by the romanticism of a Clough being in charge. The following season was again a disappointment, with Derby finishing in 14th position. To some it was enough. Surely after a season of stability, there was hope that the club would push on.
They haven’t. Which led to recent claims from the spin master himself, chairman Tom Glick. Glick announced a “money back guarantee” for fans if they are not satisfied with the players recruited by the time the season kicks off. Quite enticing in truth, and with such bold claims you’d expect the club to finally invest in the playing staff.
Oh wait, yep here it is; “To put it simply, we will be spending more money on next season’s squad to get better players and better results than we have done this season.”
So then, after three years at the club, have they finally realised that you get what you pay for? Are they finally going to be spending money on players? Perhaps the protests outside the entrance of Pride Park have finally made the Americans realise that what happens on the pitch is what comes first.
Rams fans have reason to cautious though. This “money back guarantee” which has been sounded out today only runs until the opening game of the season. So in theory, enough time to sign Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, thus boosting season ticket sales and then selling them come the end of August with 32,000 season tickets sold and no refunds then available.
Cynical perhaps, but there are a good few weeks between the big kick-off and the closing of the transfer window. In just the past two windows, Derby have sold Rob Hulse and Kris Commons. There was also a period where the club’s Player of the Year was sold within twelve months of winning the award. Youl Mawene left, then there was Inigo Idiakez, Tommy Smith, Steve Howard and Rob Hulse. The phrase “once bitten twice shy” seems more than appropriate here.
Glick has also said: “We expect to put a side together that is capable of competing in the top six.”
Something that will take considerable investment after looking at the current crop of players and the board have yet to invest in the playing side at all.
So what’s changed? Have the small protests outside the entrance to Pride Park been heard by the American owners? Have they clocked at last that it is unlikely a side can be built on such a tight budget? Was this part of the plan all along?
Glick and Clough have stated on numerous occasions their admiration for the model which Burnley and Blackpool followed to gain promotion. Glick also went on to mention the current standings of Leeds United and Norwich City, both of whom operate on strict budgets as well.
It is easy to name successful clubs but what are the reasons for their success? It is not just the budgets that they have. Burnley were promoted on a small budget but they also changed their manager in the November previous to their promotion season. Blackpool chose to dispense with the services of Tony Parkes in the summer of 2009 prior to their own promotion under Ian Holloway. Leeds and Norwich have both come up from League One with momentum. Again, they may have a small budget but so did Bristol City when they were promoted and reached the play-offs. Where are they now?
Teams can get into the top six on a tight budget. Perhaps Derby have tried that over the past few seasons. Certainly this season – and it has failed. The play-offs seem a distant dream at the moment.
Fans hear that the investors involved with the club are wealthy, yet haven’t seen any of that supposed wealth. Maybe they have spent money on reducing the debt but fans only notice investment when they see the rewards before their own eyes.
If the board are so insistent on sticking with Nigel Clough as manager, then at least give him a fair crack of the whip. The side needs investment and, above all, it needs quality.
Glick has said it now – money will be invested in the squad. There can be no going back. The patience of Derby fans is wearing thin but both the board and the manager seem intent on sticking to their long-term plan. It is admirable in truth, but it needs to start bearing fruit. Otherwise there could be no way back for Glick, for the board, or for Clough.