They reckon that good things come to those who wait, well so do half-cocked internet interviews with away fans. Derby are in town tomorrow and that give us the chance to grab long term County
sufferer supporter Ollie Wright and ask him the usual stuff, you know about football, rampant ex-managers, money and pies.
Ollie currently shares his views on stats, facts and all things DCFC at The Derby County Blog and can be followed on twitter at @derbycountyblog. His previous two visits to the “Wigan Athletic Stadium” (we can still do that can’t we) have seen him travel back to the East Midlands on the wrong side of 2-0 score lines. Obviously we’ll be hoping for more of the same tomorrow, and definitely wishing that Grant Holt and Stephen Crainey don’t give him too many flashbacks of Noel Whelan and Andy Todd in years gone by.
1) The Premier League is, presumably, still fresh in Derby’s memories have you any crumbs of comfort, words of wisdom or sarcastic comments for Latics fans that are maybe finding it difficult acclimatising to the Championship?
To be honest, the Premier League season feels like a lifetime ago. This is our sixth season in the Championship and having come down in a right old mess, it’s taken us a long time to get back on an even keel. Last season, it finally started to seem like we were getting somewhere and this season, we’re looking pretty competitive.
When I look at Wigan, I see a club who’ve had a phenomenal time in recent years. Funnily enough, when you won the FA Cup, I watched it in a pub in Ambleside, having just done a long hill walk with a group of lads which included a Wigan fan. When Watson scored, he just laughed and laughed – he couldn’t get his head around the enormity of what the club had achieved.
There are a lot of clubs who are ‘bigger’ in terms of fanbase and heritage than the Latics and who are impatiently awaiting their turn in the Promised Land. As I’m sure you’re finding for yourself, once you drop down, the Championship can be a real bugger to get back out of. Your squad looks good, but that can be said of a lot of teams this season and the others don’t have the (enviable) distraction of a European campaign to plan for, either.
2) Where are Derby right now? Consolidating in the Championship or building for promotion? Are you financially secure now that the Premier League money is long gone? That ground sponsorship must smart, how’s the relationship between the board & fans?
We’re in a good place, believe it or not. The stadium naming rights deal didn’t really mean anything to me, personally – the thing was, we left our spiritual home, the Baseball Ground, in the 1990s and it seems that most stadiums built in the modern era get a sponsor name. Apparently, it’s something that has been an aspiration of the club ever since they moved.
Financially, the process of adjusting from having parachute payments to spend to being on second-tier income is extremely difficult, but we’ve managed it. Plenty of big clubs have taken a bath in League One after relegation from the Premier League, but that’s a fate which we have thankfully avoided.
We’ve undergone the consolidation process and are now a top ten Championship side with an outside chance of making the play-offs. I don’t know what will happen in January, whether the board will back McClaren and have a dart at it – even if not, I’m confident that we’ll have a decent season and that the club is generally moving in the right direction.
3) Does Steve McClaren feel like a prodigal son? He was up for the Latics job in the summer, a lot of people would have preferred him to Coyle, but it wasn’t to be. What have we missed out on?
McClaren doesn’t really feel like a prodigal son, given how long it’s been since his two spells at Derby (as a player in the 1980s and as assistant manager to Jim Smith in the late 1990s). He was a figure of fun for us at Forest not so long ago, so initially, it seemed like a bizarre appointment, but actually, it might turn out to have been a canny one.
He has been appointed as ‘head coach’, alongside a newly created post of ‘head of football operations’, filled by Chris Evans, who is tasked with running our scouting network and dealing with recruitment matters on McClaren’s behalf. Initially, chief exec Sam Rush briefed the media that we would be appointing a sporting director, but this is a slightly different arrangement – McClaren is definitely still number one on everything football, with Evans working under him.
I think the semantics of calling him ‘head coach’ were to do with PRing his appointment, more than anything. He had a high-profile failure as ‘manager’ at Forest and also flopped at Wolfsburg and England, but was brilliant as assistant manager at Derby before moving on to work as Sir Alex Ferguson’s number two. He is hugely respected as a coach throughout the game. It’s been widely reported that Harry Redknapp was very sorry to lose him from his staff at QPR.
I think his continental experience would have helped you in your Europa League campaign and I’m sure he would have done very well at Wigan, given the chance.
4) For some reason I always think of Derby being a club that brings young talent through, which is something most fans wish their club were better at. Is that a fair assessment of Derby’s approach and do you have any hot prospects we should look out for this weekend?
Under Nigel Clough’s management, there was a huge and very welcome emphasis on youth development, which is something the club had failed to do under previous managers such as Paul Jewell and Billy Davies. As a result, we have a clutch of talented young players who are real assets and who look to have extremely bright futures.
Will Hughes is now an ever-present in our first team and plays for England U’21s in central midfield, at the age of 18. Enough said. Next in line is 17-year-old England U’19 international Mason Bennett, who is likely to feature from the bench as a wide forward, although long-term, he will be a striker with power, pace and technical qualities. We have very high hopes for him. A comparative veteran, 21 year-old Jeff Hendrick played for the Republic of Ireland under Giovanni Trapattoni. A tall, hugely promising central midfielder, he is just on his way back from an injury sustained in September.
We have a few more Academy products bubbling under as well, but those are the three who will be in the squad on Sunday.
5) in recent times, we’ve passed Paul Jewell and Tomasz Cywka your way? Did they bring you anything other than that “RAM-PANT” headline and an impossible to pronounce surname? What memories, good and bad, do you have of the pair?
I understand that Jewell had a special relationship with Dave Whelan and did well at Wigan, but he was chronically abysmal at Derby and I still cannot understand for the life of me why Ipswich hired him after we finally got rid of him. He made an absolute mess of our club – first, he attempted to rip up the squad in the middle of a Premier League campaign, ending the season with th
e infamously pathetic total of 11 points; then he embarked on an incontinent buying spree for a supposed Championship promotion campaign which would probably have ended in relegation to League One if he hadn’t finally gone.
Cywka was OK and quite a few fans had affection for him, but he will be most vividly remembered for an incident at the business end of 2010/11. With our badly struggling side 1-0 up at Portsmouth very late on, Cywka lost the ball (was probably fouled) and Portsmouth promptly attacked and equalised. Clough went into total meltdown and promptly crucified Cywka on Radio Derby, saying that he ‘wasn’t very bright’ and plenty else besides. Clough was widely criticised and the PFA’s Gordon Taylor even ended up offering to mediate, in what became an embarrassing situation for the club. Bad times all round. After that, it was inevitable that Cywka would eventually move on.
The next season, he was sacrificed in the second minute of an East Midlands Derby at Forest, after goalkeeper Frank Fielding was sent off. Clough put an arm around him as he came off, but Cywka was visibly upset. He was a tryer and although it didn’t happen for him at Derby, I hope he goes on to have a good career.
6) What are the pies like in Derby? Do you partake? If so, what’s your favourite filling and what technique do you use to eat it? If not then what’s your matchday snack of choice?
I don’t usually sample the food at half-time, to be honest. My dad often turns up clutching a bag of chocolate bars and assorted fruit, so I’ll generally have a Mars Bar and a banana and possibly a cup of tea at half-time, if I feel like pushing the boat out. If I end up out on the sauce afterwards, I’ll generally cap the night off with a dirty doner kebab, so it’s not as if I’m above consuming dubious foodstuffs.
I should say that dad is excited about the pies at Wigan, having heard good things, so I may well partake on Sunday!
Thanks to Ollie for his time, and let’s hope he doesn’t notice that the pies, as well as the football, aren’t what they used to be at the DW. As always, good luck for the rest of the season, unless it affects Latics’ fortunes, in which case sod you 😉
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