Sunday, 29 September 2013

Clough deserved another season at Derby

Not even the sacred Clough name acts as protection in football management anymore. Not even in its most hallowed fields of the East Midlands.

Derby County sacked Nigel after narrow defeat to arch-rivals Nottingham Forest. A result which leaves the Rams in fourteenth spot but just seven points off the playoffs. 

Even in September, there seemed little wrong with their away form even if life at Pride Park needed a better result or two. 
Not forgetting the percolated coffee!
But everything is wrong with the board's decision, apparently even the manner of its delivery: young Nigel was sacked by telephone. 

Quite aside from the emotional pull of being a Clough, his track record at Burton Albion deserved more, whether a Clough, Smith or a Jones for that matter. 

Still only in his mid-forties, Nigel has fifteen years managerial experience following an extraordinary club-building exercise down the road at Albion, the club he joined in 1998 as player manager.

Over the following decade, during half of which he continued to play a regular role on the field, Clough took Burton from the seventh tier of the English football league system to the brink of promotion to League Two before leaving halfway through the 2008–09 season to follow in his father's footsteps and take over at Derby, where he served for four years. 

Clough followed his instructions and slashed the wage bill and still maintained the team on a mid table trajectory. Stability before a promotion push was being created.

When boards sack managers, what messiah figure do they expect to change things next? Who's better than Nigel Clough? The board have decided that man is QPR's ex-England coach Steve McClaren.

He has good previous at Derby: it was his organisational skills which attracted the attentions of Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who took him to the imminent treble winners to replace Brian Kidd.

It's clear Derby believe he has the profile and coaching experience to lift the Rams into the Premier League.

But whatever the rhetoric about the Championship being tougher than ever to get out of, the fact remains the playoff system creates a wide-open lottery in March.

Everyone knows you hit form in the spring, stay within touch of the top 10 - a massive thirty points behind the eventual champions will do. And you can get promoted to the big time! 

Clough's personal stability and experience could've navigated that. 

And indeed McClaren might bring them that prize, but it's no better preparation for promotion, nor foundation. 

The only way to get ahead in this crazy, money-driven era is to add continuity to your plan. Derby are nowhere this morning and Clough deserves another job.