A COUPLE of weeks ago I looked at the young players who have made the move from the Academy to first team football.
This week I’m looking at what is missing? What is stopping Derby County from progressing in their quest to ultimately challenge for a promotion or play-off spot.
In my opinion it’s two things, width and experience. It’s a lack of the two main ingredients that most successful teams need in order to up their game to the next level.
Regarding width, you only have to look at the successful Rams sides of the past. From Clough through to Smith, the inclusion of natural wide men was a very important part in the make up of the teams.
Cloughie had Alan Hinton, whose balls from the flank more often than not had John O’Hare or Kevin Hector meeting them. Dave Mackay brought in Leighton James who had been hitting the headlines for Burnley and Wales.
Arthur Cox also had players who could put in a quality pass from wide out in Nigel Callaghan and Ted McMinn. Callaghan was so missed when sold for a big fee to Aston Villa that he was brought back on loan a few seasons later.
The current squad has only Michael Jacobs who is a natural out wide. Nigel Clough used Jamie Ward as a left winger last season, but his from goals this season it’s evident that he is far more suited to a more forward role.
Paul Coutts has done a great job down the right with John Brayford overlapping, but his natural position is central midfield.
Both Craig Bryson and Will Hughes have found themselves pushed out wide left, but are far more effective in the middle. On occasions we have seen four central midfielders start for Derby as Nigel Clough appears to have a problem in who to leave out.
The decision needs to be made though! Extra width provides more attacking chances and creates more goals.
Nigel Clough can be proud of his youngsters and the maturity that they show as a group of players, but nearly all successful teams have at least one experienced head on the field.
Clough and Taylor’s players were initially led by Dave Mackay who was talked out of retirement at Tottenham.
Dave Mackay, when manager, employed Francis Lee whom many thought had seen his best days, until he won another league title with Derby.
Arthur Cox looked to England international John Gregory whose added class helped the team to prosper and get themselves promoted.
George Burley’s play-off side had experienced pros like Ian Taylor and Michael Johnson to lead the club from the basement to the top six.
Even Billy Davies couldn’t ignore the important role that Seth Johnson played on the field. Although he hadn’t even reached the age of 30, his experience was telling as the team gelled and became very difficult to beat.
In my opinion width and experience are the missing ingredients and if they are added, Derby County will once again be a force to be feared!