Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Cherry Chimes talks to Derby County Blog

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Blogger Interview: Derby County Blog

Cherry Chimes talks to Ollie Wright at Derby County Blog to see how he thinks his team has started in the Championship this season and to question him on the in form players at Derby County.

CC: Do you think Derby's slow start was down to getting over the play-off final disappointment?

DCB: The major problem at the start of the season was the bad injury sustained by George Thorne. Thorne is absolutely perfect for this team in the holding role, combining as he does pace, presence and passing ability, but he is out until well into the new year with cruciate ligament damage. For the first few games, Steve McClaren fell into the trap of picking the best players, not the best team and our form only stabilised once he realised that he had to use the canny but almost immobile veteran John Eustace as a holding midfielder, at the expense of a more talented player, Will Hughes, who is not as well suited to that particular role. Eire midfielder Jeff Hendrick has since sustained a shoulder injury, meaning that Hughes has returned to the side.

After a surprise early loss at Charlton and a disappointing home draw against Ipswich, we have gradually come to life and now sit sixth in the formative table. Perhaps the moment that our season really got going was when we deservedly equalised at Nottingham Forest. That goal meant a lot to everyone connected with DCFC, especially given that the Red Dogs were top of the table at the time (and already Champions, if you listened to some of their fans). Since then, we’ve picked up seven points from nine and are starting to look the part again. Back-to-back home games now beckon.

What everybody is waiting for is another sparkling burst of form like we enjoyed last season, when we started to look like an irresistible force.

CC: Have you been able to control games as well as you were doing last season?

DCB: Yes and no. We’ve had the majority of possession in every game, but too often, we haven’t backed that up by preventing the opposition from scoring. There have been spells in every game when we have looked very dangerous, but they have been followed by spells where we look defensively vulnerable. We give away too many silly goals and this threatens to undermine our season, if we’re not careful.

CC: There was talk of Johnny Russell being eyed up by AFCB in the summer, but has he started the season well?

DCB: Johnny is one of four players competing for the two ‘wide forward’ slots in our formation. He is being used as an impact sub as much as a starter. He works hard and is a very useful member of the squad, but with Jamie Ward in good nick and the interloping Liverpool loanee Jordon Ibe pushing very hard for inclusion in the XI, it’s not easy for Russell to get games. That said, he has five assists and one goal to his name already, which is a pretty good return.

CC: Derby also wanted to bid for Simon Francis over the summer so is the right back position a weakness for Derby?

DCB: At that stage, we were trying to cover for the loss of another Liverpool loanee, Andre Wisdom, who is now with West Brom. Wisdom was a key player in our promotion push last season and two signings have been made in a bid to fill his sizeable shoes. Cyrus Christie, from Coventry City, takes the attacking full back tag to new levels and plays almost as a right winger, which causes opposition defences all sorts of headaches. Ryan Shotton, on loan from Stoke, is much more of a traditional defender and currently has to be content with a place on the bench.

I think we are still missing Wisdom’s defensive presence, as Christie is not quite as commanding a figure in the back four, albeit his forays forward are an exciting and productive addition to our attack.

CC: Apart from the big win against Fulham most of your games have been tight this season. Why do you think that is?

DCB: As a known quantity in this division, we’re getting used to facing massed ranks of defenders challenging us to play through them. More often than not, this group of players will manage it – and anyone not up to it will suffer, as Fulham did - but sometimes, as happened in the draws against Ipswich and Cardiff at home, we will be frustrated.

When we play at home, teams usually set out to frustrate us, waste time and nick a goal from a corner or free kick. Away from home, the onus is on the hosts to attack us more, but still, most coaches choose to flood the midfield. Blackburn fielded two strikers and we revelled in the space that they afforded us, beating them 3-2 - but their first goal was a fluke and in truth, we should have won more comfortably.

CC: Which midfield player should AFCB fans look out for in the Derby team?

DCB: Prince William. Will Hughes is a joy to watch on his day and even when he’s not at 100 per cent, it’s still very rare to see him waste a pass. For a team who base their success on possession and carving out opportunities in open play through creativity, Hughes is crucial. The fact that he was developed through our academy is a source of great pride and I am already dreading the day that he is stolen away. He has the ability to play for England one day.

CC: You signed Leon Best in the summer, but has he had much of a chance to impress yet?

DCB: Not really, because he acts as cover to the main man, Chris Martin. Best has appeared as a sub in most of the games, but hasn’t scored yet – although he tried to claim the goalmouth scramble equaliser at Forest. He is a useful player to have in the squad, but Martin is integral to the way we play and I don’t see him being left out, or a radical change in formation, any time soon.

CC: Has McClaren changed anything in the way Derby play of late, like getting the ball forward quicker, more crosses or is it still very much the patient build up play that he has kept to?

DCB: No, we still pass it. In fact, everything the club did during the summer was about keeping the squad together, keeping faith with them and encouraging them to carry on where they left off last season. There is now a very clear Derby County style and a consistency to the first-team personnel.

CC: It's early in the season but which six teams do you think will be at the top come next May in the Championship?

DCB: Before the season started, I predicted the three relegated clubs, Derby, Wigan and Watford as my top six. Obviously, I didn’t realise quite what a nutter Felix Magath is and what a mess he would create at Fulham, but Norwich are going strong and I still think that Cardiff will be there or thereabouts, if they make the right managerial appointment.

Wigan have made a very patchy start, which has surprised me, but Watford are going well. To slightly tweak my predictions, I will go with Derby, Watford, Norwich, Middlesbrough, Cardiff, and perhaps a wildcard – who knows, maybe even AFCB? But as you say, it is very early days and so much will happen between now and May – including a transfer window…

CC: AFCB have been playing better away than at home so are you confident of a Derby win?

DCB: I think that it has the potential to be a good game. Both teams are set up to pass it, not clog it, so I hope that this will be open, lively and competitive encounter, with plenty of attractive football to admire.

CC: A big thank you to Ollie for sharing some very open and informed opinions about Derby County FC. Please take a close look at Ollie's writing at Derby County Blog

My good friend Damien Hill is going to watch the Derby v AFCB match at Dean Court on the live stream and has agreed to report back on the experience, so I should have that for you in a few days time. I think he already has his pint on order and is looking forward to putting on his slippers in front of the big screen - please let him have a good view!

Please all note that the Brighton home game has been moved again back to Saturday 1 November but at a later 5.15pm kick off - See the official AFCB website. Finally, good luck Stephane Zubar at Port Vale - Stephane has signed on a month's loan.

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