Interview: Derby County fans talk about the season so far and the future that might be around the corner

Craig Hanson 4 months ago
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Amidst chaos off the pitch, Wayne Rooney is quietly plotting an incredible Championship great escape

As administrators scramble to find a buyer for the club, the playing staff look to overturn an accumulative 21 point deduction dished out by the EFL which has made relegation almost a foregone conclusion. It is only due to the miraculous work of Rooney, his coaching staff and the players, that people are even able to discuss the possibility of what would be a truly historic achievement. Fans are rightly more concerned with the short and long term future of the club itself than with results on the pitch as the very existence of one of the country's most iconic football clubs hangs in the balance. It might however bring them some small relief to see their team fighting with everything they have and getting results along the way.

While former owner Mel Morris and his reckless mismanagement of the club have led to unpaid wages, transfer embargoes and ultimately administration, the team itself has continued to soldier on. With hands tied and very minimal resources, Rooney has inspired the players he does have to phenomenally overachieve this season. Without the 21 point deduction imposed by the EFL, Derby would be sitting in 11th, just 7 points outside the playoff places. Four wins and a draw from their last five Championship games has lifted them off the bottom of the table. They are now just eight points from safety.

Many are sceptical that these heroics can continue on into the second half of the season as the club have been unable to retain the services of Phil Jagielka, Graeme Shinnie, David Marshall and Sam Baldock, two of whom have joined fellow Championship sides. Jagielka and Shinnie have been particularly influential and featured heavily for The Rams this season. With no incomings on the horizon and an even more threadbare squad, chances of staying up are looking even slimmer than they did at the start of the campaign. For Rooney to drag the team out of the bottom three would quite genuinely be one of the greatest achievements in the history of the division.

There are said to be bids on the table for the club. Fans will hope that something can be done soon to save their club, and that such news might propel their players to achieve something great. If not, they'll at least hope to be challenging in League One next season, and not following Bury into the abyss.

That's why Derby County fans are taking over Twitter to share their experiences with the club they love using the hashtag #myderbystory. If you're a Derby fan, or you've welcomed them to your ground, or visited theirs, show some love for one of the founding members of the Football League as its fans desperately do all they can to keep it alive. Like all football clubs, Derby County plays a huge role in the community. It means so much more than just football. To see it go the way Bury did would be truly devastating for the people of Derby. Join the hashtag and say your piece.

We caught up with Nigel Owen from Black & White Together and Paddy from Club 84 to see what Derby fans are saying about the off field issues, Rooney, the players and the future. Here's what they had to say:

Q. How confident are you that a buyer will come in and save the club from liquidation?

Nigel: The multimillion dollar question. You have to believe there is a price at which is works, but what will the EFL punishments be at that price?

Q. Some might say "Beggars can't be choosers" but how do you feel about the prospect of Mike Ashley taking charge of the club?

Paddy: That would be fantastic news because it would mean we had survived. Nothing else is really all that relevant presently. It all boils down to the legal action of Middlesbrough and Wycombe and how the EFL police its member clubs. 

Q. In your own words, how did the club get into this mess off the pitch?

Nigel: Two words - Mel Morris. Over his tenure at the club he became more and more autocratic, put more and more money on the roulette wheel of promotion to the Premier League and his numbers never came up.

Q. On the pitch, how would you rate the performances of the team so far this season?

Paddy: Bearing in mind the squad we have and the restrictions in place, the performances have been remarkable. The combination of outstanding (very) senior pros and raw young talent has made for a very competitive Championship side. We’d be eyeing the playoffs in different circumstances. 

Q. How much praise does manager Wayne Rooney deserve for the job he's done thus far?

Nigel: Untold. I think now, with the players sold already and the likelihood of further to come, it will be impossible to keep Derby in the Championship, even if everything else can be sorted. But before that, we really were believing he could. And I don't joke when I say he would have deserved to be Manager of the Year for doing so.

Q. With speculation linking him with the job at Everton, do you think Rooney will leave? How much would he be missed if he did?

Paddy: I think he will if he’s offered the job and he’d leave with everyone’s blessing. Whilst in other circumstances he’d have most definitely lost his job last season, this campaign he has been the head of the resistance and produced a fine playing squad in near impossible circumstances. He deserves the chance at his boyhood club. 

Q. Who has been the club's standout player so far this season?

Nigel: It's not been about any one player. It's been about the spirit, the teamwork, the desire and the attitude of everyone in the squad. From experienced heads like Davies and Jagielka to debutants like Thompson and Plange. To a man they have played for the shirt more than any team most Derby fans can remember.

Q. Do you believe that this greatest of escapes will come to fruition?

Paddy: At the moment I don’t think there will be a Derby County in February. Had we managed to have secured a preferred bidder, kept hold of Jagielka and Shinnie and possibly even added, then I think we would have got very close to the great escape. Now, all I care about is having a club to support for the remainder of this season and beyond.

We would also love to share the story of a Derby County fan from overseas. Shane Dolan is from the United States and he fell in love with the club from afar. Like all supporters, he's very troubled by recent developments and reached out to us in the hope that we might share his story. Here's what Shane has to say about the club he loves:

To me the connection to Derby County FC is much different than most. Growing up in Southwestern Pennsylvania I had no idea of the Rams. My love for this club was not passed down by tradition or by watching matches at Pride Park. My first match was a friendly where I saw Max Bird score! It was on my cell phone and I was hooked from that moment on. I had no idea that this club would affect my life off the pitch.

I’ve made friendships that have now become family to me and my own. They welcomed me in as one of their own. Teaching me the rich tradition of its history and what the Rams mean to them. From sending me pins, scarfs, etc. The loss of this club would take away the history of past players and new players. It would end the heartbeat of the fans who fight for their beloved family.

Across the pond I sit helpless watching my family go through this pain. It hurts to think I may never witness a match in person. All I can say is that derby will fight till the end and we will stand beside them as a family. We are Derby and we will not fade out.

It is as yet unclear whether or not Derby will be saved. For now, we hope the administrators can find a buyer soon. In the meantime, the team itself will be in action this Saturday at 12.30 in the East Midlands Derby away at old rivals Nottingham Forest. If they pull off another shocking win, The Rams will be very close to climbing out of the bottom three as their dream of a greatest escape lives on, at least for now. 

We want to feature fans like you!

For more fan-centric content like this, please go ahead and follow us on Twitter. We want to interview leaders, influencers, representatives and most of all fans, to get their perspectives on the clubs they love. This content is really important to us and we hope you will continue to support it with likes, retweets and all that good stuff. If you want to contribute your thoughts about your club, please do get in touch.

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