Clement swiftly rebuilding Rams for expectant Championship challenge
Following the sacking of Steve McClaren at Pride Park, after a disastrous finish to the last Championship campaign, Derby County appointed Paul Clement, and the former Real Madrid assistant coach is now building a squad capable of finally making a Premier League return.
Under McClaren, who has since joined Newcastle United as head coach, the Rams sat comfortably at the summit of the second tier, but a run-in to forget swiftly followed, which ultimately ended in the new Tyneside boss’ dismissal from Pride Park.
Arriving in the East Midlands as somewhat of an unknown entity, but possessing plenty of experience throughout Europe, Clement faces a tough task of reviving this sleeping giant of a club and overseeing its return to the top-flight (11/4 with Coral to gain promotion).
However, the 43-year-old has already begun a welcome rebuilding process, not long into his Championship tenure, having made several high-profile signings and closing in on further arrivals, which will bolster his attempts to achieve evidently outlined goals for next term.
Over the past few days, Derby have captured Andreas Weimann and Chris Baird, bringing the total of recent arrivals to five players at this early stage of the summer transfer window, and more are set to follow.
Darren Bent enjoyed a relatively successful loan spell at Pride Park last term, and has penned a permanent deal with the club that believed in his abilities in front of goal, while Alex Pearce and Scott Carson are signings that will boost the Rams rearguard.
Tom Ince, a seeming misfit at parent club Hull City, could potentially be the biggest close season coup. Prolific on loan at County towards the end of 2014/15, he guarantees goals at this level, though notably not across the East Midlands divide at Nottingham Forest. Clement’s early authority is evident as the club are set to break their record transfer fee to get Ince junior for keeps.
Despite several of the new players having been previously outlined as targets during McClaren’s reign, including Bent’s permanent deal, along with Pearce and Weimann, but his successor is making a real impact in rebuilding nevertheless.
Clement believes his experience of working alongside some of the best coaches in world football will help him on his Derby quest, most notably his time spent as former Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti’s trusted assistant at the Bernabeu and PSG previously, but he wants his own style to shine through.
“I have my own personality and certainly won’t be trying to pretend to be anyone else,” he said. “I have to let my own style come through,” stated Clement.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some very good managers, coaches and players and over my time I’ve made sure I’ve taken the good, the not-so-good and the bad out of all of those and I’ll be dipping into that experience in this role.”
Leaving the Bernabeu following Ancelotti’s acrimonious axing and before Rafa Benitez was appointed, Clement can call upon previous success by the high-profile Italian’s side throughout reigns at Chelsea (Premier League and FA Cup double), the Parc des Princes and in La Liga, including a Champions League crown with Real, as career highlights already.
Having started his coaching at Stamford Bridge, Clement was promoted by then Blues boss Guus Hiddink, and he has vowed to use all of that experience to help his new club reach their domestic targets.
“Managing has been something I’ve had a burning ambition to do for a long time, or particularly since my work at senior level.
“For a long time I worked in developmental football and I enjoyed that very much but then I had an opportunity to step up at Chelsea, initially with Guus Hiddink and then Carlo Ancelotti and then I followed him after.
“I really enjoyed it and over the years I thought at some point I would like to have the opportunity to be a head coach and this is a fantastic opportunity to me.”
Clement will have to adjust to the rigorous tests that the Championship provides for a manager whatever his background, having formerly worked with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at past clubs.
Although, the well-travelled coach is sure to bring a great deal of quality into this Derby squad, which he is in the process of revamping, as he looks to secure a hopeful automatic promotion next term with an expectant Rams outfit (8/1 favourites to win the Championship).