11th in The Championship is far from where Derby County want to be, and the club moved quickly to bring in Gary Rowett following the sacking of Steve McLaren.
Rowett was sacked by Birmingham City mid-way through December, but the 43-year-old finds himself back in the game just three months later, at the club whom he made 105 appearances for. The manager couldn’t have asked for a better first game in charge, an away trip to The City Ground for the East Midlands derby. Despite being on the receiving end of a last-minute equaliser, it was a game Rowett can take many positives from.
The quality in the Derby County squad has never been in doubt. They are a team that has under-performed massively this season. The trouble with having a squad like the Rams’ is often being able to find the right eleven – the right formula, so to speak. That will be Rowett’s first task in hand, getting to know the squad and his best team.
On paper, he has all the ingredients needed for a successful Championship club at his disposal. With a few months of experimenting, in a season Derby can now write off, and a full preseason, Rowett will stamp his mark on the squad.
He was a man many felt was unlucky to lose his job at Birmingham and Derby have brought in a manager who knows what The Championship is about, particularly its relentless nature, and also the expectancy and ambition of everyone at Pride Park. Having played in a Derby shirt over one hundred times, a lot of the supporters will have seen Rowett go from playing on Derby turf to standing on the sidelines. He’s someone supporters will really take to – someone they can relate to.
It’s extremely early doors, but seeing David Nugent and Matej Vydra net in his first game in charge will please the Derby boss greatly. Nugent has yet to set the turf alight since signing in January, but he is a player with unquestionable talent, a striker known for his goals at this level. Matej Vydra has been also disappointingly underwhelming since he joined the club, having been instrumental in Watford’s 2014/15 promotion season.
Derby’s attacking options should be, collectively, one of the most feared in the division. Johnny Russell and Thomas Ince are up there with the best wide players in the league on their day. Will Hughes is an exceptional talent in midfield, too. Rowett needs to get these players playing to the best of their ability. It is time for the big names in the Derby squad to live up to their reputation and step up to the mark. Before the season starts, The Rams are always included in the promotion talk. Play-offs should be the minimum aim for a club such as this,
There were certainly question marks over the appointment of Steve McLaren, and those question marks proved to be justified. However, this could well be the right appointment made by Mel Morris. In a squad full of big names, a good man manager can be key. With a couple of tweaks to the team and a few months to implement his ideas and strategies, next season is a big chance for Derby to make their return to the promised land.
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