Well here we are at the dawn of yet another new season. This is the time of year that all fans are filled with optimism and that this year their team will challenge for honours. I am no different although these days I watch from afar through the medium of television and by logging onto NewsNow/Derby County.
Last year we saw the coming of Nigel Clough with his seemingly definite ideas of the way forward. In the early days his Dad, the legendary Brian, delved into the lower divisions for nuggets like McFarland (Tranmere), Gemmill (Preston) and McGovern (Hartlepool). His predecessor had also picked up Hector (Bradford City) so I don't blame him for hoping to replicate this cheap way to glory.
The question is though can a team thrive without that extra bit of class? Can a team thrive without proven experience at Championship or Premiership level. Clearly Nigel believes it can. Since he arrived at the club the only player that has cost Derby real money has been Sean Barker from Blackpool (who then got promoted without him). He also bought Chris Porter from Motherwell but £400,000 for a decent striker is hardly breaking the bank.
The rest have been acquired in my opinion with a hope and a prayer. He has opted for Moxey (Exeter), Buxton (Burton Albion), Brayford and Bailey (Crewe), Deeley (Burton Albion) and Pringle (Ilkeston Town). Nigel also appears to be a shrewd student of free transfers because he acquired Paul Green and Gareth Roberts from Doncaster, Tomasz Cywka from Wigan and Russell Anderson from Sunderland. All of the frees appear to have been good business.
He also generously allows players to trial in games that have little meaning and this pre-season a young American called Conor Doyle has emerged from nowhere and reports claim that he will sign as a full time professional soon. 18 year olds who can instantly play at Championship level are rare indeed and although I have yet to set eyes on him I suspect that he can play a bit.
There is a clutch of youngsters also in the academy side who are knocking on the door so on the surface the future is bright but it brings me back to the first question can a team win the Champiionship without spending substantial amounts of money? Well Derby still have seasoned pros in their ranks. Bywater in goal, Leacock in defence, Savage (needs no introduction) Stephen Pearson, Kris Commons (a joy on his day), Stephen Pearson, Rob Hulse and Luke Varney. Heh that sounds quite good and they are currently 40-1 at my local bookie! Come on ewe Rams!!