Derby County will attempt to finally get out of the Championship this season after two straight seasons of snatching failure from the jaws of promotion. It all looked so rosy at the turn of the year as Derby County looked to have responded to their 1-0 Play Off Final defeat by storming into a position of real strength in the race for promotion. An astonishing run of just 12 points in 13 games not only dropped them out of the promotion places, but the play offs. There is reason for optimism this season as they look to erase the memories of the last two seasons, but will they return to the Promised Land?
The first cause for optimism is the appointment of new Manager Paul Clement to replace Steve McLaren. Clement has joined Derby after a few years as Carlo Ancelotti’s Assistant at Paris St Germain and then Real Madrid. Clement’s appointment should be a big boost for County fans as he has learnt from one of the best in the business at arguably the biggest club in the world. He has a growing reputation and should bring a lot to Derby as he looks to use everything he has learnt under the Italian to be successful as a manager and get the Rams back into the Premier League.
The main reason for anticipation at Derby is the signings. They have signed some key players and have managed to permanently sign Thomas Ince and Darren Bent permanently. Ince was a key player during his loan spell and the winger scored a staggering 11 goals in 18 League appearances and with Bent also netting 12 in 17, things are looking promising going forward for Derby County. Add Andreas Weimann to that and they have a very formidable front line. Weimann has struggled to regain the form he showed in 2012/13 but should still be a class act at Championship level. Centre Back Alex Pearce could be a good addition to a defence that looks a bit shaky and Scott Carson joins to put pressure on current Number 1 Lee Grant. Northern Irishman Chris Baird also joins to add depth to the squad.
Arguably Derby County’s potential starting XI is up there with the strongest in the league, but one weakness that they will look to address is their lack of depth in key areas. In the goalkeeping department none of Carson, Grant or Kelle Roos look good enough to be in the Premiership so that is one area that will need to be looked at. In defence they have Richard Keogh, Pearce, Baird (Also a centre midfielder), Stephen Warnock, Cyrus Christie, Jake Buxton, Raul Albentosa and Craig Forsyth (Also a left midfielder) which is one of the few areas in which they have a mix of real quality and depth.
In the centre of midfield they have George Thorne, Will Hughes, Craig Bryson and Jeff Hendrick to choose from, which is a huge positive for the Rams. The main problem in this Derby team is the lack of a decent winger to partner Ince, with Simon Dawkins and potentially forwards Johnny Russell and Andreas Weimann the main candidates in a position that looks very weak indeed. In attack they are very strong with Weimann and Russell joining Bent, Connor Sammon and Chris Martin.
The key to another push for promotion will not only be bringing in a new goalkeeper and a winger, but also keeping Chris Martin fit. Scotsman Martin, who signed for free from Norwich City in 2013 after an initial loan spell, has scored a brilliant 46 goals in 97 games since he signed permanently for the Rams. With Darren Bent joining, they have 2 players capable of netting 20 plus goals and also have midfielders capable of scoring 10-15 goals. Everything points to a successful season, as long as they can keep it tight at the back.
Derby must also look at their head to head record with the likes of Middlesbrough, Queens Park Rangers, Burnley, Hull City, Ipswich Town and Brentford. These matches are the types of matches that set the tone for a season and the key will be to look at picking up wins in their home matches and at least a point on the road. They must also think about numbers early on and say to themselves that they need to be looking at 90 points for promotion and 80 for the play offs and by doing this they can assess where they are and where they should be. Whilst these points totals will be helpful to them, they must also look at the table to assess the situation so they can always keep an eye on whether they are hitting their targets in terms of league position.
Will the season finally end with joy for Derby County fans, or will they have another season of failure to dissect when it gets to May? Only time will tell, but it promises to be an interesting season for Derby.[separator type=”thin”]
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Jaap Stam dismissal could be too little too late for Reading
Jaap Stam was dismissed by the Royals earlier this week.
Reading were one penalty shootout away from the Premier League at the end of last season and it was hoped that they would go one step better to clinch promotion during this campaign.
However, it has been a disastrous season for the Royals and they currently find themselves three points above the relegation zone with eight matches to go.
Jaap Stam had retained faith from the board for his overachievement during his first year as manager, but with their position looking more and more precarious, it became untenable.
The club announced his dismissal on Wednesday in an online statement that featured the following:
“Jaap has not wavered in the time, effort and sheer determination he has put in to try to steer the team away from the position we find ourselves in. However, after careful consideration, the decision has been made that a change is now necessary.”
The Dutchman can’t complain that he wasn’t given a fair chance.
There are only eight matches remaining in the season and it has become obvious that he was no longer the right man for the job.
It was inconceivable at the start of the campaign that Reading would be battling relegation. They were a team with promotion ambitions, but 2018 has been terrible for them.
The Royals have won only one Championship match during this calendar year.
A number of draws have kept the club stuttering along, but now they are only three points above the bottom three, a decision had to be made.
Stam will look back at his time with Reading as a positive one.
He managed to surprise a lot of pundits by taking them to third position in his first season and was unlucky not to be promoted, but there are a lot of people still scratching their head at how the Royals managed to finish as high as they did.
The likes of Fulham, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday were all seen as better teams, but something clicked for Reading and it is difficult to explain what.
Mark Taylor made an observation on Twitter using expected goals. Stam’s team massively overachieved based on that metric, which projected them as finishing 19th.
This season, the model projects them in 17th. In short, this decline in league position was predictable.
Although there are problems with expected goals, it does provide a good explanation for Reading’s decline this season.
Their results have simply returned to the mean and they are now getting the points to match their performance level.
It isn’t that they have got worse under Stam’s management, but rather that last season was the outlier.
If Reading, as a club, want to be competing for promotion, Stam wasn’t the right manager to deliver that. The underlying numbers throughout his tenure highlight that.
His side scored 112 goals and conceded 121 in the Championship during the Dutchman’s time as manager.
That isn’t a record that suggests he is good enough to lead the club back to the Premier League.
The time for dissecting Stam’s tenure and his failures isn’t now. Reading must concentrate on making the right appointment to secure their place in the Championship.
It would be a huge blow if they were to fall to the third tier for the first time since the 2001/2 season.
With only eight matches left, there is little room for error for any incoming manager. The club must hope that this decision wasn’t too little too late.
One-time Leeds United talent Chris Dawson joins Scarborough Athletic
The midfielder has struggled with injuries since leaving Leeds United.
Leeds United fans probably don’t bother themselves with the news at non-league Scarborough Athletic, but one development at the club from yesterday might have caught the eye.
Chris Dawson signed for the club earlier this week, along with former Sheffield United youngster Jorome Slew.
Speaking to the Scarborough News about the move, Dawson explained he was just happy to be playing football again:
“There were quite a few clubs (interested). But I know the manager here and I know one of the lads here and I am not really bothered about what level I play at.
“I just want to be playing football again and want consistent game time.”
Leeds United fans will, of course, remember Dawson well.
The Welsh under-21 international was a highly rated youngster at Thorp Arch when he signed his professional contract in 2012.
He made his original Leeds breakthrough to the first team in 2013, starting in a 2-1 loss against Derby County in April of the same year.
Nonetheless, he struggled with a shoulder injury and other ailments after that period.
He next played for Leeds in November 2014 and after featuring just two more times for the club, he was released in January 2016.
Two days later Dawson headed to Rotherham United, then managed by his former Leeds academy boss Neil Redfearn.
Dawson, however, has had an unlucky career. By the time he had returned to full fitness, Redfearn had been sacked and he never went on to feature for the Millers.
After joining former Leeds coach Ian Burchnall for a loan spell at Norwegian side Viking FK he was released by Rotherham in May of last year.
Since then it has been a tough ride for Dawson.
A behind-closed-doors friendly for Oldham Athletic has been his only 90 minutes in the last year, after suffering a torn ACL.
The knee injury has kept him out of action but now, fully fit, he is hoping to help the Seadogs in their bid for promotion from the Northern Premier League Division One North.
Leeds United fans were always excited about Dawson’s ability. Often praised by his coaches and fans for his performances with the under-23s he looked a first-team prospect.
Technically gifted and dangerous around the box the Welsh talent has all the necessary skills to be a star. The one thing Dawson has not been gifted with is luck.
Hopefully, he can find success with Scarborough. Five years after making his Leeds debut, Dawson is embarking on the latest stage of his career.
No Leeds United fan would begrudge him any future success.
Leo Bonatini wants to stay and Wolves should keep him
The Brazilian has not scored in 18 games, but has earned a permanent Wolves switch.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have a decision to make in the summer regarding striker Leo Bonatini.
The Brazilian is on loan at Molineux from Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal until the end of the season.
According to Birmingham Live, that deal can be made permanent in the summer for a fee of around €5 million (£4.4 million).
“It’s something I still don’t know. I’m on loan here, really, until the end of this season from Al-Hilal. I don’t know what will happen.
“But I know what I want, I want to stay. Here’s a place that I was able to adapt very well to the game style, it’s a game style that I like a lot, the country is a very good country, where I adapted to be able to live.”
In December, this would have been an easy decision to make. The Brazilian had scored 12 goals in 22 games for the club as they romped to a Championship lead.
It was a level of form that had him in contention for the national team.
Since then, things have dropped off. Bonatini has not scored in 2018 and is now 18 games without a goal.
The January loan signing of Benik Afobe has seen him lose his place and the Molineux outfit will no longer be sure that the 23-year-old should be snapped up in the summer.
But, surely Wolves should still push forward with signing the Brazilian striker?
His form recently has been a concern. However, Wolves know what he is capable of when he is firing.
Those 12 goals in 22 games at the start of the season were no fluke and the bullish frontman has plenty of talent.
Furthermore, Wolves can not argue with the price-tag.
For a player of Bonatini’s age and talent, £4.4 million is an absolute bargain when compared to some of the prices in the Championship in recent seasons.
Wolves will need different options up front if they are promoted and new faces will be expected at Molineux.
But Bonatini will have played a pivotal role in taking the club to the top-flight. Having him on the books will be a major plus in the Premier League.
Whilst his form has dipped in recent times, £4.4 million for a 12-goal striker, at just 23 years of age, is a deal that Wolves must snap up.
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