After severing ties with Nigel Pearson just months into his reign as Derby County manager, the club have decided to re-appoint Steve McClaren on a two-year-contract. The former England boss is returning to Pride Park just 17 months after he was sacked by the Championship club.
It is a safe appointment from Derby as they know exactly what they are getting, while his knowledge of the club should allow him to hit the ground running. They have had a poor start to the season and are currently languishing in 20th place. Before the season began, they were seen as one of the promotion favourites and the pressure will be on McClaren immediately to help them climb the table.
This will be McClaren’s fourth spell at Derby, after previously being employed as a player, assistant and manager. After his disastrous spell in charge of Newcastle United last season, it is somewhat surprising that a club has opted to give him another chance to prove himself as a number one.
He struggled to manage the big egos and was a major factor in the Magpies’ relegation from the top flight. He won just six of his 28 Premier League matches in charge of Newcastle and his limitations as a manager were on show for all to see.
However, he is better suited to managing in the Championship and having a squad of players without too many big egos. During his previous period as manager of Derby, he took the Rams to the play-off final and got them playing some of the best football in the division. Although he didn’t get them promoted, they weren’t far off and he will be hoping to finish the job this season. His knowledge of the squad will be an advantage as he will already have a good idea of his best team.
His first test will be to repair his relationship with the fan-base, because it was damaged by the way he left the club. McClaren refused to rule out the possibility of taking the Newcastle job and that had a negative impact on the team’s form. This caused Derby to miss out on a play-off spot, which angered the supporters.
However, it was his attempt to pledge his future to the club at the end of the season that really upset the fans. It was too little too late and Derby opted to sack McClaren. Over the next few weeks, it is imperative that he has a good start and picks up some wins. Football fans are fickle and if results are improved on the pitch, the supporters will begin to warm to McClaren once again.
Derby’s motives to appoint McClaren have been questioned as they had a great opportunity to make a statement with their next managerial appointment. There are a lot of good young British coaches in the Football League, while there are others waiting to be given a chance.
McClaren is a safe choice, as they know what to expect, but it is certainly not an exciting appointment. They could have targeted Lee Johnson or Gary Rowett, both of whom have already shown that they can manage at Championship level. There was also an opportunity to interview Ryan Giggs, who is eager to take his first managerial role.
There is a saying in football that you should never go back and managers who have returned for a second spell at a club have rarely succeeded. Nigel Pearson did a woeful job at Derby and their position in the table reflects that. Although McClaren may be the right man to come in and steady the ship, he can’t be considered a long term solution.
If he had been appointed on an interim basis, that would have been understandable, but a two-year-contract is a mistake. The continued poor decision making at board level is likely to prevent Derby from returning to the Premier League anytime soon.
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