We speak to Derby fan who gives us the lowdown on the Rams.
Bolton travel to the iPro tomorrow afternoon to take on Derby, who currently occupy a playoff spot. Ahead of the game, Paddy Breslin, a Rams season ticket holder for over 20 years, was kind enough to talk to us. We discuss their last few seasons, players to watch, and get a pub recommendation.
How do you feel about your season? Was getting rid of Paul Clement the right thing to do or a mistake?
Derby County’s flirtation with the play-offs over the last two seasons has been heart breaking. The Bobby Zamora last minute winner for QPR at Wembley in 2014 was so cruel and unjust and has yet to be fully grieved by most supporters but, barring the very last second of the season, I would have that campaign on loop.
From Zamora onwards the football at Derby has been less and less fun. Last year saw the gradual unbalancing of that team through poor recruitment and the mismanagement and misconduct of Steve McClaren. His romancing of Newcastle when we needed his loyalty the most led to the near total destruction of any legacy he could have hoped for at the one club that loved him.
With all that in mind Paul Clement`s task was actually much harder than the bookies who crowned us pre-season promotion favourites predicted. An era had ended so horrendously the season before and something new needed to replace it. Clement attempted to do that with an obsession on shape, organisation and possession just when such a dour approach was becoming unfashionable.
This resulted in a very decent points return and league position right up to the point of his dismissal. It was the lack of attention to detail to all other bullet points of his job description that cost him, most notably his lack of enthusiasm for the academy. The best way to summarise the football under Clement would be his own post match analysis of George Thorne`s lung busting run into the box and equaliser against Man Utd in the FA Cup. ‘He wasn`t meant to be there’.
What makes Clement’s dismissal look reactionary is the appointment of the novice Darren Wassall to replace him following the money he was allowed to spend so hastily in January. It would take a very experienced manager to implement a suitable system to suit the current over inflated squad at Derby County and ‘Academy Daz’ is anything but experienced. Harry Redknapp’s recent arrival as “Most Senior Football Geezer” is an admission of this by an increasingly stubborn owner.
So in summary we`ve not been entertaining on the pitch and we`ve been confused and annoyed by the lack of a sensible plan B following the failed Clement gamble off the pitch. Yet we still could end up having a party at Wembley in May, celebrating getting it right this time and ironically singing ‘Ohh Bobby Zamora!’
Do you think you`ll go up?
Absolutely no idea. What I would say is that our run-in might, and I mean might, create some momentum leading into a play off campaign. Our team on its day can beat anyone in the division and handsomely as they proved on Tuesday night when they beat Hull City 4-0. Then again you`d expect that from a squad that cost more than the Dortmund side that reached the Champions League final a couple of seasons back.
What sort of tactics should we expect on Saturday?
And herein lies the problem with Wassall thus far. He`s tried to play more open, aggressive and direct football than under Clement but has really struggled to implement any ideas consistently. This has been reflected in the results. If we have the same performance as we did on Tuesday it will be physical and fast with sharp passing and intelligent movement. If we have the same performance as we did against Cardiff last Saturday it will be completely unimaginative and unorganised and we`ll concede two goals from corners.
Any particular players we should look out for?
£6 million on Bradley Johnson. £4 million on Tom Ince. And yet the most effective midfielder in the championship, Craig Bryson, has returned from injury and revitalised us like a defibrillator. £400,000 from Kilmarnock. Will Hughes will probably make an appearance from the bench, his first since his injury at your place on the opening day. The hype around him is completely justified. Chris Martin is scoring goals again.
It`s really sad to see such a great club like Bolton in your current situation. We founder members of the Football League deserve better! I hope your new investment sorts you out for next season. But I am a betting man and I think we`ll probably take you apart on Saturday. Not because we’re anywhere near as good as we should be. Just because I`ve enough experience of seeing my team in the s**t and I know how it usually pans out for us in similar situations. Derby to score at least three.
For any Bolton fans travelling down on Saturday you`ll be more than welcome in the Alexander Hotel before kickoff. Take a right out the station and follow the road until you see a big stand alone pub with an old diesel train engine in the car park! Less cramped than the Brunswick next door which does equally good real ale.