Before the decision was taken to sell Barton, he (or rather his agent) was engaged to gauge interest in signing a new contract. Because of the interest that had already been impressed in him, albeit by lower level Championship sides, it was apparent that we were going to have to offer him a substantial increase in pay and bonuses before he was going to commit beyond June 2023. With a healthy two years or so to run on the current contact, it seemed a perfect time to sell. It goes without saying however, that I was expecting him to have more interest than a lukewarm 1.6M bid would suggest.
Middlesbrough haven’t been dissuaded from their interest by the out of hand rejection, so I can still hope that they are counting the funds in their war chest, and will put a multi-million pound offer on the table, only for a bidding war to erupt with fellow Premier Leagues rivals Newcastle. End result would be for us to rake in the readies and wipe off a sizable portion of our debt.
The other aspect which is troubling me is my inability to stem the bleeding (or should that be haemorrhaging?) of money by the club. There was a decided lack of interest in my older players in the January window, and while I have been able to orchestrate transfers for most of the deadwood in my first team, the transfers are only effective from 9 June, when the window opens again. The downside of which is that we have to endure another three months of losing money hand over fist. Things need to get worse before they get better, right?
Two of my noticeable failures though, have been the handling of Barton, whom I, perhaps unwisely, rejected a offer and Stevenson, who seems unable to, and understandably so, get a new contract from another club anywhere near the GBP6,250 we are paying. As such, he wants us to subsidise the new contract for the next eighteen months.
Fundamentally, I am opposed to this on two fronts, one being his inflated salary is one of the reasons we need him off the books, and the other is that with the new players I have bought to the club, the most offered has been 3K p/w. While I accept that 2.2K is better than 6.25K per week, I need to weigh up his usefulness to the club, any tutoring he can perform, and the potential to turn him into a coach when he finally gives the game away, which would be lost if he moved to another team; even if we continued to partially fund the new contract.
However, I’m excited about the potential of this new young squad. To offset the loss of the deadwood, I have signed (to date) four young up-and-comers, most of whom I have written about previously:
Phil Seddon, 21, ENG, AMC/L, ST, 400K, MK Dons
Simon Jackson, 21, ENG, AMR/C, ST, 300K, Chelsea
Jermaine Cross, 21 ENG, ST, 100K, Livingston
The final piece of the puzzle is young Croatian goalie Goran Halilovic from Hadjuk. He’s a young keeper, who was scouted as a potential replacement for Agnew, before Agnew re-signed. He is 18 and has great stats for his age. He will probably be loaned for the first six months with a return clause, and was signed for 160K as insurance against main keeper Arregi developing a long term injury.
The template for the future of Derby County looks something like this, in my opinion:
Bench: Agnew, Nieminen, Pochet, Carlson, Jackson, Rios, Tuttiolo
The oldest player in the above template is Binks, at twenty three still has more than a few good years at the top level, and I don't think you would need to do much tinkering with it, save rotate the players through.
This is all dependent on selling Stevenson and Barton (else they would need to be added to the roster)....and keeping the Board happy, thus keeping my job at the club.
We have eight more games in the season, so an opportunity for a maximum of 24 points, and if we are to usurp Luton at the top of the table, they must drop seven points for us to finish top on GD, and we have opened up a five point buffer on third placed Crystal Palace, to be: 38 played for a 22-10-6 record.
Appears at this stage as if finishing top of the table, in line with the media predictions at the beginning of the season, may be Mission Impossible.
<Cue theme music>
We will however, keep fighting. We play Luton at home shortly, and I dare say that will be a fair indicator of where we are as a team.
Here are the transfers I’ve organised thus far, effective from the next transfer window, 9 June ’21
Jack Bonham Petersborough 300K
Tomasz Cywka Bari 950K
Russell Gordon Northhampton 110K
Gary Hewitt Brighton 825K
Sam Hird Inverness CT 1M
Thomas Ince Burnley 1.3M
Will James Petersborough 300K
Lee Peltier Doncaster 26K
Dale Stephens Blackpool 1M
Anthony Van Loo Shrewsbury 110K
Stephen Whittaker Shrewsbury 26K
The complications surrounding Barton and Stevenson are well documented; so in terms of culling the deadwood, I feel as if the process has been largely successful. Stephens and Hird commanded fairly sizable (relatively) transfer fees off the back of their leadership skills (having been the team captain and vice captain respectfully.) Gary Hewitt had been the back up striker to Barton, and had scored nine goals in the season when I took over. He hasn’t yet added to that tally.
I thought the price for Ince was a bit over the top, but looking deeper, he is supposedly the best left winger in my squad currently, and he is of an age where he can tutor the younger players.
The only words I can use to describe the feeling when Cywka signed with Bari were…grateful. I wasn’t really concerned about the fee involved, it was just fantastic to know that I have the 12.5K p/w blood sucking albatross off from around my neck.
The rest of the squad that I have sold, I would characterise as journeymen players who may have done the job in the past, certainly didn’t fit the mold for where I wanted to take the team in the future. Two other players identified, Leon Cook (one of the starting DCs when I inherited the team) and Jason Baynes (a 25 yo striker, but has yet to showcase why he should be anything other than the backup to the backup) have yet to finalise their departures. Cook, is currently negotiating with Milwall and Forest Green, whilst Baynes hasn’t had any approaches yet.
There are two reserve players, Paul Stevens and Giles Barnes that don’t seem to be generating any interest; the reason for such is quite clear. Their contracts expiry in June 21, so I am resigned to the fact that both will leave on free transfers; as will the bulk of the players in my u-18 squad, whom have also been a disappointment.
Another stat which has just popped onto my screen that should make Jimmy Barton a valuable commodity is that he has now set the record for most goals in a season, with 35. The previous record holder was a Stefano Palumbo, who scored 33 in the 2019 season.
Here's hoping that that is the sort of publicity that is needed to whet more clubs appetites and convince one, or more, to make a bid.
Leon Cook has agreed to sign with Milwall for 100K at the start of the new transfer window.
20 March 21
A tricky away game to Crewe with slick defense, a roaring home crowd and…plenty of rain, meant that the scoring was limited to two well placed shots taken by both of Derby’s strikers in a four minute window either side of half time.
Using some karmic dice, first Binks set Barton up to score just before the half time whistle, only to have the roles reversed soon after the second stanza started, when Barton sliced the defense open to put Binks into space. The rest of the game was punctuated by great defense and solid work in the mid-field. Valuable 2-0 win on the road.
Somewhat worrying, there were an additional seven shots on goal which missed the net. This will give me food for thought as I need to ensure that we turn possession into pressure and pressure into goals against my next opponent,league leaders Luton.
If we stand any chance of finishing top, we not only need to beat Luton and bank the three points, which would close the gap to four points, we would need to knock their self confidence and belief to the stage where they might drop four points in the remaining six games, it would also require us not to drop any points, or at least hope Luton drop four more than us.
The day has arrived, we were up for the challenge. My life had been nothing before this moment, the biggest....press conference for the home game against Luton.
Lots of questions about the form of the players, veiled barbs about whether I could keep Barton at the club, how well Barton had been playing of late, and how Derby were intending to approach this fixture. Attacking mentality as per usual and see whether we need to alter it at half time.....
Three points for the taking, and the chance to erode the lead at the top of the table.
We have named the same run on team as that which beat Crewe, the only change coming in the bench, Pochet is out injured and Benchenaa with his under 20 Algeria squad, so Hird moves up.
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