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Should Derby sign one of this trio in their push for promotion to the Premier League?

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With a new era at Derby County fully under way, we are now able to reflect on the first week of the season. Nigel Pearson’s first three competitive games in charge of Derby has seen an expected victory in the cup over Grimsby Town, a respectable draw against last year’s third best, Brighton, and a disappointing defeat yesterday to Barnsley. Considering the addition of a make-shift left back in Chris Baird against Brighton, and the loss of Andreas Weimann -a pivotal player in preseason – the Brighton draw appeared do be acceptable. However, for many Derby fans, the performance and more importantly result to Barnsley was not acceptable. For a team backed again by many to be serious contenders at the top, it is a slow start, but is there cause for concern? No.

However, for many Derby fans, the performance and more importantly result to Barnsley was not acceptable. For a team backed again by many to be serious contenders at the top, it is a slow start, but is there cause for concern? No.

In a time where paying £89 million for an ex-player to return is deemed acceptable, results are expected quick, fast and in a hurry. However, in the Championship it is rare or even impossible for a team to go a full 46 games without breaking stride at the top of the division. Newcastle United’s last stint in the Championship is probably one of the only occasions that spring to mind where the favourite at the start of the season, cake-walked the division. However, as the Magpies are now finding out, the division has become even tougher to break out from with arguably more resilient teams at the top of the Championship

However, as the Magpies are now finding out, the division has become even tougher to break out from with arguably more resilient teams at the top of the Championship than at the bottom of the Premier League. And yet Derby fans ‘booed’ yesterday at full time, and they booed last week at times despite arguably a good point against Brighton. Why two games into a 46 game season, are Rams fans already so restless? Because football fans can be fickle.

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After a respectable fight to finish off Derby County’s season in an away play-off second leg at Hull, Derby needed a new manager. The fans cried out for a man with Championship experience, a leader, a passionate coach, someone who has ‘done it’ before. Nigel Pearson ticks all of those boxes. Derby wanted Nigel Pearson and they now have Nigel Pearson.

However, somehow, many Derby fans expected Nigel Pearson to bring his own style of football to the same team that has been playing the same 4-3-3 for each of the last three seasons without any fall-out.This project will take time and Pearson needs the room to implement his philosophy. This is not a time for panic and frustration. He has had a month with the squad all told, yes.

However, friendlies against lower tier German teams are not exactly home games in the league against Brighton. Pearson did not know how his squad would perform on the competitive stage with his style of play. Now he does, and now we can expect change.

This project will take time and Pearson needs the room to implement his philosophy. This is not a time for panic and frustration. He has had a month with the squad all told, yes. However, friendlies against lower tier German teams are not exactly home games in the league against Brighton. Pearson did not know how his squad would perform on the competitive stage with his style of play. Now he does, and now we can expect change.

It is anticipated that Derby will sign players over the coming weeks. With a relatively stout defence and an unquestionably talented midfield, it appears it may be the attack where the squad could be bolstered. After ineffective performances from Darren Bent in his first two league games, and considering the inconsistency of Chris Martin, it could be argued that it is time Derby strengthened their centre-forward position.

The Rams are yet to score in the league and have one goal – from a defender – in 270 mins of football thus far. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that Derby have been heavily linked with three big names in the Championship: Kodja of Bristol City, Wells of Huddersfield and Forestieri of Wednesday.

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Nahki Wells of Huddersfield Town, when fit, has always been a vital part of the Terriers’ front line – scoring 35 goals in over 100 appearances for a team that has often struggled at the bottom of the Championship. With his electrifying pace, he can cause Championship defences a lot of issues. Derby’s Assistant Manager, Chris Powell, has also worked with Wells during his time as manager of Huddersfield, so it could be an easy link for the Rams.

The only issue of which Derby should be aware is Wells’ injury history. Nonetheless, he would be a good fit to Pearson and Derby’s fast paced 4-4-1-1 system. He could play in front of Tom Ince in the ‘number 10′ role, or he could even be a good fit in a 4-4-2, alongside a Chris Martin or a Nick Blackman. However, spending within reason as injuries could be an issue. Anything more than £6 million is a very high asking price.

Fernando Forestieri of Sheffield Wednesday was a centrepiece of the club’s push for promotion last season. Scoring an impressive 15 goals in 36 appearances for Wednesday, he is a very valuable weapon for the Owls. An experienced 26-year-old, having played for nine different clubs already throughout his career, he has mastered the aforementioned ‘number 10’ role. With many reports suggesting he would like to depart Hillsborough, the Italian could be a very valuable fit to Nigel Pearson’s Derby system.

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Nonetheless, there are two issues with Derby approaching the 26-year-old. Problem one being that his playing style is very similar to that of Derby’s current ‘number ten’, Tom Ince. A team with Tom Ince and Forestieri would not function to its fullest potential. It would be a case of Ince or Forestieri, and that to me causes more problems than it solves. Another concern is that he will come at a cost. Wednesday, who have ambitions of the Premier League themselves, are in no position to sell, so it would be a hefty asking price to bring the Italian to the iPro – a price most likely too high for an Ince replica.

Meanwhile, Jonathen Kodja of Bristol City has been one of the most sought after forwards in the Championship. With 20 goals in 40 plus appearances – an almost goal per two-game ratio- he is understandably high up on most teams list of targets. Kodja is a very similar player to Nahki Wells, but recently, with better results. The Frenchman provides power with pace – a rare but invaluable combination for a striker. He would be a perfect fit for Derby County and the Rams should go the extra mile to try and acquire him, if possible. A team with Kodja, Martin and Bent would undoubtedly score more goals than Carson, Keogh and Shackell would concede.

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It has been a slow start for Derby County, there is no question of that. At times the performance against Barnsley seemed to lack desire. However, I strongly believe that is due to the change of system, rather than the lack of talent or want. It will take time for the club to fully adjust to the new Pearson system. However, Pearson is a terrific coach and I strongly believe that with patience, the system will work. The players need the support of the fans which at times has lacked in both of Derbys first two league games. An interesting tie lies around the corner with an away trip to Deepdale to face Preston who have lost their first two league matches. This could be an opportunity to kick-start a damp squid start to the season, however, a better performance is a necessity. With an addition or two, the Pearson regime will work, it just requires patience and belief.


Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Alex Hannam.

Aspiring sports journalist and currently a 4th year undergraduate to a Broadcast Journalism Honours degree. Avid sports fan, particularly football where I am a full licensed semi-professional official.

Derby County

Manchester United 2–0 Derby County: Three talking points from Old Trafford

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Photo: Reuters

Two goals inside the last ten minutes from Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku helped Manchester United secure a routine victory over Derby County in their FA Cup third-round tie on Friday night.

Jose Mourinho put out a strong side for the home clash with their Championship opposition and there was a clear gulf in class from the word go, with the hosts laying siege to Scott Carson’s goal.

Marcus Rashford missed two glorious chances to give his side the lead before the break, blazing over the crossbar when well set inside the area before guiding a header on to the post from just a number of yards out, and Paul Pogba fired wide twice as United started to turn the screw on Derby.

The visitors did come close twice in quick succession through Marcus Olsson and Alex Pearce but Mourinho’s side re-asserted control just before half-time when Carson pushed two free-kicks away.

And United started the second as they did the first, coming out fast and continuously testing Carson’s resolve in the Derby goal.

Pogba, Lingard and half-time substitute Lukaku all had shots palmed and parried away by the ex-England number one whilst Rashford – without a goal in seven – saw a dipping shot strike the post.

But just when it seemed that Derby might cling on for a priceless replay it was Lingard who produced yet another stunning 20-yard effort into the top corner to break away hearts, before the returning Lukaku played a neat one-two with Anthony Martial in injury-time to tuck home and secure passage.

United ensure lightning doesn’t strike twice

After being well and truly humbled by Bristol City just a few weeks ago in their last meeting with Championship opposition, Jose Mourinho ensured lightning didn’t strike twice against Derby County.

And whilst they may have left it late on Friday, the result was never really in doubt.

Manchester United have an extremely good pedigree in the FA Cup, losing just one of their past 36 games with lower-ranked opposition prior to kick-off at Old Trafford, and you could understand why.

Mourinho named a similarly strong starting eleven to that which played at Ashton Gate last month but this time around their play was much more dynamic, zipping the ball around quickly and allowing Paul Pogba to work his magic in the middle of the park.

Both he and Jesse Lingard continued their excellent form of late and, backed up by Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford – who could have had a hat-trick – their intricate passing moves proved too much.

Had it not been for an inspired Scott Carson between the sticks and for the woodwork than the score-line could have been much more flattering, but Mourinho has reason to be quietly pleased with his side’s work.

Lingard and Pogba steal the show again

As mentioned above, two players at the heart of everything good about Manchester United’s play once again were the charismatic duo of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard.

Pogba in particular impressed and, although there are those that will say it was ‘only’ against a Championship side, the way he glided across the pitch and linked defence with attack was superb.

In the absence of Nemanja Matic – being rested after a busy festive schedule – Pogba played the role of an ultimate box-to-box midfielder, and after a slow start since returning from injury this Christmas he carried on from where he left off against Everton with a display full of power and flair.

Within ten minutes he had already sent two long-range efforts flying narrowly past Carson’s goal and it was from that moment that you could sense he was in the mood, and if it hadn’t been for a string of excellent stops from the Derby goalkeeper – one free-kick in particular springs to mind – then the Frenchman would have deservedly got himself on the scoresheet.

As it was, it was left to the red-hot youngster Lingard to settle the home supporter’s nerves in the 84th minute with yet another trademark long-range strike, this time rifling high into the top corner.

It was the 25-year-old’s fifth goal in his last six games and he’s really starting to outshine his fellow United midfielders this season – which can only be a good thing as United strive for a top-four finish.

Tougher tests will undoubtedly surface with the Premier League and Champions League set to gain traction over the next month, and the FA Cup could turn out to be an unwanted distraction from their main ambitions for this season, but the form of Pogba and Lingard is a huge positive for United.

Eye-opening experience for promotion-chasing Derby

With no loss in seven heading into their third-round trip to Old Trafford, and with the knowledge that Bristol City humbled United last month, Derby would have had high hopes ahead of the game.

The Rams’ impressive run of form over the festive period has seen them rise to second in the Championship table, two points ahead of their nearest challengers Cardiff City, and now there’s a real growing feeling that this could be the year that sees them return to the Premier League.

Yet if they do make it to the pinnacle of English football once again then they will have to get accustomed to playing the likes of Manchester United week-in, week-out, and on Friday’s showing there’s still a lot of work to be done before their squad is prepared for that.

To their credit they gave it a go in the opening 45 minutes, looking sharp on the counter-attack and committing numbers forward to try and get at a weakened defence containing Victor Lindelof at right-back and Daley Blind in the middle.

But despite holding the hosts for all of 84 minutes – coming within touching distance of an unlikely replay – they were indebted to both Carson and their own woodwork for keeping them in the game for so long.

The main aim for manager Gary Rowett will undoubtedly be to secure top-flight football for next season for the first time in ten years, but they’ll look back at Friday’s defeat as an eye-opening experience that offered a glimpse of what the 2018-19 campaign could have in store.

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Three things we learnt from Sunderland opening day draw with Derby County

Jake Jackman

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Sunderland started their first season in the Championship since the 2006-7 campaign against a well-organised Derby County side.

This was a good test for the Wearside outfit as they came up against a team with a lot of second tier experience.

Although they didn’t win the match, they did manage to take a point and the performance gives them something to build on over the coming weeks.

The away side were solid, but they lacked pace and dynamism in attack.

Here are three things that we learnt from Friday night’s match…

There were signs of encouragement for Sunderland

After their convincing defeat to Celtic in pre-season, there were a lot of people that thought Sunderland would be easily beaten at the Stadium of Light, but that wasn’t the case. They gave a good showing of themselves and had the better of the match for long periods.

The defence remained a weakness and they gave up a goal without much of a fight, but Simon Grayson will be able to improve their organisation during the coming weeks.

Lee Cattermole looked back to his best and delivered an all-action performance in the middle of the park. There was evidence that Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan could develop into a good strike partnership at this level.

The latter may not have got on the scoresheet, but his work rate is exactly what Sunderland need. They haven’t had many players that give everything on the pitch, but Vaughan certainly fits that description.

Grayson will want a couple more signings before the window closes, with a creative central midfielder needed. If he gets them, the Black Cats could surprise a few this season.

Derby need to replace Tom Ince

The concern going into the match was that Derby County hadn’t sufficiently replaced Tom Ince and their attacking performance provided indisputable proof of that.

Sunderland’s defenders were full of nerves when they were forced to defend in their own box, but the Rams didn’t put them on the back foot enough. They lacked a quick attacker that could run at defenders and get them to commit themselves to a challenge. Their build-up play was too one-paced and that prevented them from creating many clear-cut chances.

Gary Rowett has managed to get Derby well organised and they will be a team that competes in the top half of the division, but they need more quality in the final third to push on for the top six.

There was a report from the Derby Telegraph that stated the club have an interest in Preston North End winger Callum Robinson. Although he may not have the star quality of Ince, he would provide pace and directness to the attack.

If they don’t replace last season’s top scorer, a top six place will be beyond them, based on this match.

The Sunderland fans need to stay with the club

It seems churlish to compare Sunderland to Newcastle last season, as there aren’t many similarities between the two relegations, but the Black Cats could learn from their local rivals when it comes to supporting the team.

The attendance at the Stadium of Light was less than 30,000 and it made for a sorry sight on the television.

Supporters will rightfully talk about the decline of their football club, which has caused the loss of support. However, this is the time to get behind the players and do their bit in helping their club get back to the Premier League.

The players won’t benefit from playing in a half-empty stadium, while the image of the club will be damaged. Grayson will be hoping that he can win the fans over and this performance would have helped in that as the players did work extremely hard, which can’t be said about a lot of recent Sunderland teams.

A drop to the Championship may be a step back, but they will win more games and it will be more fun to be a supporter. Given their history and size as a club, they can be a real force at this level.

To become that, they need the fans to be behind them. Attendances have to improve.

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Derby County

How Twitter reacted to Sunderland’s return to Championship football against Derby

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Sunderland made their return to the second tier for the first time in 11 years and did so in disappointing fashion as Derby County held  them to a 1-1 draw. Roy Keane’s side romped  the division on that occasion but that seems unlikely after a summer full of sales with few arrivals.

Bradley Johnson opened the scoring just ten minutes in as some sloppy defending allowed him to run in at the far post to stab the ball home to give the Rams the lead in the worst possible start for the home side.

The Black Cats had dominated the early stages and everntually got back into the game as Lewis Grabban pulled one back from the penalty spot on his debut at the Stadium of Light. Jacob Butterfield was controversially adjudged to have handled inside the box and Grabban ensured that he paid the price.

The second period saw an even affair with Sunderland once again going closest, hitting the post and forcing Scott Carson into several good saves to keep his side in the game. Derby looked comfortable, if under pressure at times, and a point seemed a fair result for both sides.

After a disastrous 2016/17 campaign in the Premier League, the Championship may be kinder to the club. Now under Simon Grayson’s command, the fans were clearly not impressed and voiced their frustration at the final whistle. They may have to adjust their expectations to what may be another difficult season ahead, regardless of the stature of their club.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to the result:

Unfortunately for fans, there was no sign of improvement on the pitch…

But it wasn’t the players’ fault…

Not everyone was impressed…

There were a lot of comments on the sparse attendance…

https://twitter.com/SophieBarley/status/893546611128905728

At least rival fans enjoyed it…

https://twitter.com/cjwwfc/status/893546944219406341

There were some reasons for positivity…

But some things matter more than football…

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