Since February, rumours have been abundant as to who the next manager of Derby County would be. After sacking Paul Clement, club chairman Mel Morris placed Darren Wassall – who was Academy Director at the time – in charge until the end of the season, in an effort to make up the 5 point gap to the automatic promotion places and arrest the Rams’ run of 8 games without a win. Despite not being able to make the automatic spots, Wassall led Derby into the Play-Offs on a good run of form only to be disposed by Hull City, though not without a fight.
Since then, there has been no end of speculation on who will take up the reigns at Derby, with all manner of names reportedly in the frame. However, all that has been ended now with Derby County appointing former Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson as new manager – not Head Coach – of the Rams.
Pearson was a name thrown around since the beginning of the search, with many Derby fans naming the Nottingham born former defender as their main candidate for the top job. His pedigree is one that speaks for itself, with Pearson the manager at Leicester City when they walked to the Championship title in 2014. He also clearly had a huge helping hand in laying the foundations for the Leicester team that completed the impossible dream and won the Premier League in 2016.
He could also be the missing piece that Derby have been searching for to get them over the line for the past 3 years. Formations have been tinkered with, huge amounts of money spent and various head coaches tried, but what Derby have needed all this time is somebody to guide the squad when the going gets tough. Derby always have a strong first half of the season, but often drop away towards March time, with the players seemingly getting distracted or cracking under the pressure.
Nigel Pearson is a manager who has been there and done it, he knows what it takes to get promoted from the Championship and is also a man who will take no nonsense in his squad. If the players aren’t performing, he’ll make sure they know it and that it will change if they want to continue playing for the club.
Another positive change that is brought in with Pearson’s arrival is the change in club structure. Since Nigel Clough’s sacking in September 2013, the club have had a Head Coach in place, that works with a Director of Football and a recruiting team. This was in an effort to accommodate Steve McClaren as Head Coach, with McClaren being renowned for his excellent coaching ability, leaving a recruitment team to concentrate on player recruitment and McClaren purely focusing on coaching the team.
This worked for a while, but many of the recruitment team’s acquisitions were far from sparkling (with the exception of Jordan Ibe, George Thorne and Tom Ince) and McClaren’s eventual downfall and sacking made the the change something of a failure. This should have been noted when bringing in McClaren’s successor, Paul Clement, only for a similar sort of outcome to occur.
Now though, the club has finally reverted to the ways of old, with Pearson coming in as a Manager rather than Head Coach, something welcomed by fans with many agreeing that a personality such as Pearson’s would not operate well unless he was in complete charge of footballing operations. This change leaves Pearson with much more scope to build his own squad in order to create the best harmony between recruitment and results on the pitch.
Despite this, Pearson and Morris have both stated that there will be no large recruitment this summer; particularly on the scale of last summer’s spending. Both manager and chairman are reportedly happy with the playing staff, potentially the first time the Head Coach/Manager has been happy with the squad for over a year. There were rumours abound over the past year on social media that neither McClaren or Clement were 100% happy with the players brought in, though whether that was true or not will probably never be known for sure.
There are many positives to come from this appointment, but undoubtedly one is the new lineup of the backroom staff. Goalkeeping Coach Pascal Zuberbuhler and Striker Coach Kevin Philips remain at the club following their work this season. In addition to this, former Derby defender and fan favourite Chris Powell – formerly Charlton Athletic and Huddersfield Town manager – comes in as assistant manager, renewing his working partnership with Pearson, having been a player-coach at Leicester during Pearson’s first reign at the Foxes.
Powell is a very welcome addition to the club, with fans always fond of him since his playing days. Many fans have even been pointing to a good cop-bad cop routine between Powell and Pearson, with some even comparing it to the legendary Brian Clough and Peter Taylor partnership that brought the club so much success back in the 1970s! Outgoing coach Darren Wassall returns to his position in the Academy, along with the staff that helped take care of First Team duties during his tenure. This is a decision many Rams fans are pleased with given Wassall’s excellent work with the academy thus far. Many would have seen it as a shame to see him leave the club altogether.
With the speculation over, the backroom staff confirmed and presumably only a few incomings/outgoings over the summer, the club looks primed to have a steady summer and hopefully a very successful season ahead. If Derby’s support remains as strong as it has been this year and the players perform to the levels that we know they can consistently, then this could be a very exciting year for everybody connected with Derby County.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Alex Hannam.