Calling for Frank Lampard's head is pure lunacy, according to our Derby County writer Mark Duffy

Saturday at Aston Villa was bad, very bad.

Monday, 4th March 2019, 10:58 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 9:42 am
Frank Lampard is dealing with the toughest spell of his managerial career so far.
Frank Lampard is dealing with the toughest spell of his managerial career so far.

So bad, in fact, that Witton train station, close to Villa Park, was reportedly full of Derby County fans at half-time, all of whom had decided that enough was enough after witnessing an inept display by their team that had seen them go 4-0 down and not even register a shot on goal.

It was hard to blame them. As Derby displays go this season, it was certainly the worst so far and they made a fairly average Villa side, who hadn't won in five games prior to the weekend, look like world beaters.

As I sat in the press box at half-time, my laptop almost on fire with its keys having been battered constantly as I described three goals in nine minutes prior to the break, I sneaked a look at social media to see just what the Rams fans' thoughts were.

Most of what was said couldn't really be repeated here given its, ahem, colourful nature, but a fair chunk of it revolved around fans' dismay at the lack of quality shown by the Rams at Villa as well as in the previous two or three games.

Some folk, however, went that bit further and suggested that Frank Lampard was well out of his depth, didn't have a clue when it came to team selection and that he should probably have been at Witton train station with the fans but with a P45 in his pocket.

It's lunacy to suggest that this poor run of form Derby are on should cost Lampard his job. There's no doubt performances have been disappointing and changes were certainly needed on Saturday, albeit six may retrospectively have been too many, particularly given many of those who came in didn't look fit or prepared.

Nevertheless, Lampard's hands have been tied given the recent injury problems he's had to encounter and the absence of the likes of Mason Mount, Curtis Davies, Craig Bryson and Tom Lawrence, to name but a few, have hit him hard given they had been key contributors to much of what has gone right for Derby this season.

The resources available to Lampard have meant that strong squad depth hasn't been something he's been able to establish, and whilst on an individual basis many of those players on the fringes of the first-team have come in and done well at various stages this season, several of them being plunged in at the same time on Saturday was a recipe for disaster, however necessary it may have been. An exception would be young Max Bird, who on a tough day looked the most assured Rams player on the pitch.

This is by far the biggest test of Lampard's fledgling managerial career, there's no doubt about that, and he'll have many more like this over the years, but it's how he responds to it in the coming games that will perhaps tell us more about his qualities as a boss, starting with the visit of Wigan on Tuesday.

Does he have the courage to go with the same side again and demand better from them? Does he bring previous poor performers back into the line-up having made his point to them? Injuries may play a part in those decisions, of course, but there were certainly one or two in the team at Villa who weren't up to it and who have work to do to show that they deserve a chance again.

The reality is that promotion, via whichever route, wasn't necessarily a prime target for Derby at the start of this season and that with the squad available, they've arguably over-achieved at times. Cup wins over Manchester United and Southampton, as well as giving Chelsea a run for their money, perhaps lulled many into a false sense of security and boosted expectation that bit more, but those were very different kinds of games compared to the never-ending barrage of tough league matches that bump and bruise to a far larger extent.

So for now, with the Rams still very much in the play-off picture, knee-jerk reactions perhaps need to be kept in check as we watch on with interest at how the four straight home games coming up might potentially shape the rest of the campaign.