Eleven points — the revival of Derby County
The last two years have been a struggle for Derby County following relegation from the Premier League. However, the Rams are yet to succumb to the tumble into League One as happened to their East Midlands rivals Leicester City and Nottingham Forest. This is a key campaign for Nigel Clough, and Stephen Marshall is optimistic.
I must confess that, without two Kris Commons wonder strikes, I would not have been able to make such an easy (if lazy) comparison between where my beloved club are now and where they were in May 2008.
Those goals from a player, whose infuriatingly inconsistent form reflects the club at large since his arrival, lifted Derby to 11 points for the 2010/11 season, the same total as we famously earned in the entirety of our ill-fated Premier League campaign in 2007/8.
Turning it around
For all the desperate thrashings handed out by superstar-filled multinational heavyweights (and West Ham), and narrow defeats with barely a shot on target to the likes of Wigan, the 2007/8 season left Derby fans with a collective sense of humour (more firing squad than gallows) and the knowledge that things could only get better.
What has followed since has not been funny in any way, and has turned a lot of fans into horrid parodies of the reactionary, fickle grumps that most supporters can be.
However, this season started with a glorious and deserved victory at Elland Road which gave everyone confidence. Confidence which quickly disappeared with a run of 6 games without a win, but I write now in the knowledge that convincing wins full of flair and invention over Palace and Boro have reinvigorated many fans, the manager and maybe even the local BBC radio cynics.
I am sure there was a sigh to be had by every fan of the club when Shefki Kuqi was signed on loan in an attempt to fill the void left by Rob Hulse’s departure to QPR. Although his form may well fade soon, his contribution so far into reviving the promise of our season has been fantastic and every fan that saw his enthusiasm and no little ability in the last two games is now very pleased to have him.
I was pleased when we signed Kuqi as I’d seen him score against us and batter many a weak centre back out of the game, but conversely I was cynical about the arrival of Alberto Bueno from Valladolid. Whilst most fans were cockahoop about a former Real Madrid youth player signing on for the Rams, I found myself focusing on the ‘former’ aspect and fully expected him to have little or no impact.
Well, Bueno has shown enough already to disprove that, and if he stays fit I am sure he’ll have a similar impact to that of Arturo Lupoli in the play-off winning team of Billy Davies. Maybe not in terms of promotion, but certainly in terms of achieving safety from the chaotic lower reaches of the Championship table.
Two more reasons to be optimistic about our future are the arrivals of John Brayford and James Bailey from Crewe. For two reasons – they both seem at home in the Championship, having a truly positive impact on the way we play, and they prove to me that Clough can be trusted when it comes to plucking players from the lower divisions.
Last season we saw the arrival of Dean Moxey and Jake Buxton, and neither blew us away. Both have been solid enough, and now Moxey has got himself back into the team because of an injury to Gareth Roberts, he has shown enough ability to convince me he can hack it in the second tier.
However, the point stands that last season, neither signing convinced many that Clough knew what he was doing. The signing of Bailey, more so than Brayford (who Clough managed at Burton), shows that our manager, or one of his scouts, has a good eye for potential and I hope that not only continues but improves over many years. I believe in the current management and, in hope more than expectation, I am looking forward to the next few seasons.
A positive outlook
So Derby fans should be smiling at the moment. The temporary nature of form should be ignored in favour of gradual signs of improvement and the building of a young team with time to grow as one.
Robbie Savage may not be around for too much longer, but he currently makes a key contribution as captain and midfield warrior. Kuqi and Bueno may not be here for long at all but show that our manager knows the type of player he needs to make Derby a more effective team in the short-term.
May 11 points become 60+ please footballing gods. Then my fellow fan can believe, as I do, that we are in safe hands.