Were Derby County correct to axe coach Paul Clement?
Holly Thackeray | February 9, 2016
Derby on dangerous ground after dispatching Clement?
Last night media was abuzz with news that Derby County had sacked coach Paul Clement, after a partnership of just eight months. Now that the dust has settled, however, have the Rams stirred a hornets net?
The Derbyshire club have lost just five Championship games all campaign, the joint-second lowest tally, and sit fifth in the table, four points adrift from third place.
Arguably, not a shabby situation to be in around February with months still to go before crunch time for the play-off positions. So, on the face of things, this decision to part ways mid-way through the campaign appears rather reactionary from the Rams, who are 13/10 with Coral for promotion.
Though, a wobbly run of seven games without a league win seems to to have put paid to former Real Madrid assistant coach Clement’s short stint, despite Derby failing to acknowledge the push for promotion to the Premier League was a priority.
No promotion priority
After giving new boss Clement the boot, Rams chairman Mel Morris told press: “The priorities were building on the Derby way and style of football enjoyed in the past two seasons, adding depth and strength to our playing squad.
“Sadly, on these measurements, we have not made enough progress and that is why we have decided to part company with Paul,” continued the Championship big-wig.
“I firmly believe that we have one of the very best first-team squads in this league. Our players are highly talented professionals who are more than capable of winning games at this level and beyond.” Ouch.
Clement began his tenure at Pride Park, claiming the reins from now Newcastle United manager Steve McClaren in summer 2015, and failed to pick up three points from any of his first five league fixtures in charge.
Yet, at that point, Derby stood by their man, with the one-time Chelsea assistant showing he had the chops to turn a tough situation around, as his side went undefeated in all competitions from mid-September to November before their current blip.
Time to gel
While it is true the Rams backed their boss to the hilt in the summer window, with the clubs’ transfer record smashed twice for midfielders Tom Ince and Bradley Johnson plus a raft of other signings, pundits at the time speculated all those cooks could spoil the broth.
It was certainly a show of strength from the Championship title chasers (now 16/1 outsiders with Coral for the trophy), after they were stung late last season in the promotion race, slipping out of contention late on after just two wins from 13.
Though the determination to add depth to the squad to prevent a rehash of that storyline this season saw perhaps too many incomings as Clement, in his first managerial role, floundered whilst trying to shoehorn in his new signings.
Many commented that Derby just needed time to gel, though the clock ran out for Clement as summer striker acquisitions Andreas Weimann and Darren Bent have failed to make the grade, while usual performers such as sharpshooter Chris Martin have been misfiring.
Still, shuffling the pack with the project barely underway will draw criticism, especially as Derby can be considered to have been unlucky in some matches.
For example, the Rams put on a determined display at Pride Park as they crashed out the FA Cup to Premier League giants Manchester United, the 3-1 scoreline not befitting of their early battling before the gulf in class and money began to show.
The slick goal scored by midfielder George Thorne was the best strike of the clash, showing a glimpse of the flowing football which could just have been on the tip of County’s tongue.
What next to bolster the Rams charge?
In what looks a risky move, Rams academy director and ex-defender Darren Wassall has now been installed as an interim boss until the end of term. Having been a caretaker before when Nigel Clough was dismissed, the stalwart may seem a safe pair of hands, but can Wassall really steer the Rams to promotion? Or will this prove a wasted season?
With more money due to be flushed into the top-flight due to TV deals, now was the time for Derby to make the jump, as competition will only become fiercer.
Kevin Phillips, the current assistant coach, appears to have been overlooked for the long-term managerial role but according to some outlets could still be in contention, while former Swansea City pair Garry Monk and Brendan Rodgers, both given their marching orders from the Premier League, are also tipped to be on the Rams hitlist.
The latter two certainly worked wonders (at least initially) at Liberty Stadium, and have a reputation for the attractive football the Rams seem to require.
While, another name in the frame is Birmingham City’s Gary Rowett, who has been lauded for his efforts with a small squad, and for blooding young players such as Demarai Gray.
So, it would certainly be an exciting prospect to see what the former Derby defender could do upon a mooted return to Pride Park, with greater resources and a squad packed with potential.
As for Clement, it may not be too long before Carlo Ancelotti’s protege gets a second chance to prove he can cut it as a leading man.