It came as a surprise to many when Nigel Clough was sacked by the Derby board on Saturday night. Their steady progress and improvement under him seemed to stand them in good stead for another solid season in the Championship, and after a start that was by no means awful, very few expected him to get the boot.
The ex Burton Albion manager, 47, has improved Derby’s league position every season he has been there. Although his style of football was not to everyone’s taste, it proved effective and efficient during his time at Pride Park. After a loss to rivals, and promotion hopefuls, Nottingham Forest, the club which Clough’s father, Brian famously managed, the board felt it was the final straw and Clough was sacked.
In my opinion, this is not how a Football League club should be run. If a manager is making steady progress over a string of season’s, it is clear the club are slowly moving in the right direction and will soon be strong enough to mount a promotion push.
Clough was doing the job the owners of Derby, an American investment group, had instructed him to do. He took unwanted players off the wage bill, halving it in the process, brought in talented young players such as Johnny Russell from Dundee, whilst establishing themselves as a mid-table Championship side with ambitions for the play-offs.
Derby were a sensible club, who consolidated and slowly built up without a large amount of investment. Their transfer spendings compared with the sides around them in the league have been next to nothing. For example, the few Derby signings from the summer had cost less than that of John Brayford, who left Derby for Cardiff. On the other hand, Jamie Mackie and Djamel Abdoun of Notts Forest came in for big money fees.
To replace a consistent manager of Clough’s standard with that of Steve McClaren is unambitious to say the least. After recent failed spells with Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest and most recently FC Twente, a club he previously one the Eredivisie with, it’s safe to say that McClaren’s managerial heyday is over.
The ex England manager will bring nothing but mediocrity to Pride Park. His style of football is no more interesting than Clough’s, and the players he will attract will be past their best and want high wages. For me, it is obvious that the board have made a poor decision, and Clough will not be out of a job for too long. It remains to be seen how long McClaren will last, but I am sure he will not go down as one of Derby’s better coaches.