Following play-off final heartbreak again for the Rams, Derby entered the 2019/20 season under new management following Frank Lampard’s departure to Chelsea. Phillip Cocu was the new boss at Pride Park and he currently has Derby in 12th place, 5 points off the play-off places with 37 games played. We speak to Derby fan Tom Rodgers on the campaign so far.
After the disappointment against Aston Villa at Wembley, what were your expectations going into the season? What did you make of the new appointment in Phillip Cocu?
With the uncertainty around whether Frank Lampard was going to stay or not halted me putting any sort of expectations on to the next season and with how late Philip Cocu was appointed because of the whole saga, I expected a mid table season with it taking time for Cocu to adapt and also bring in his own players.
I was certainly excited with the appointment as he became our first foreign manager ever and his type of football at PSV already suited the players we have at the club.
Prior to a ball being kicked, what did you make of the clubs summer transfer business? What was your assessment of the squad going into the campaign?
Our transfer business in the summer was again halted by the Frank Lampard saga and gave Cocu barely any time to bring in the players he necessarily wanted and was stuck venturing in the loan market. The pre-contract signing of Graeme Shinnie was a smart piece of business done in January by the club but the loan signings fell a little short of expectation.
Kieran Dowell was sent back to Everton early after finding no consistency, Jamie Paterson was a useful player on his day but was again, another who returned to his parent club in Bristol City.
Ben Hamer is the only one of two still at the club and his performances have given him the number 1 spot, although mainly down to Roos’ errors. Matt Clarke came in from Brighton and has been a rock at the back in a back four which has been ever changing all season. Clarke has been commanding and strong, rarely gets beat in a 1v1 battle and has been all round top quality.
The club have struggled with any sort of consistency I think it would be fair to say under Cocu, what do you put this down to?
I would say this has been mainly down to Cocu being unsure on his best/favoured team. We have chopped and changed the side all season with very few times having named the same side two games in a row. We were just beginning to find a level of consistency right before the Coronavirus outbreak and I do believe we would have pushed on had we not had this break in the season.
What have been the highs and lows of the season for you individually? Which players have stood out both good and bad?
The highs for me this season have mainly come from the impact the young players who have come into the squad have had. The likes of Jason Knight, Max Bird and Louie Sibley have been a breath of fresh air in a season filled with controversy off the pitch which brings me onto my lows. The EFL investigation along with the Richard Keogh saga hasn’t been good for us but on the pitch, the two defeats to Nottingham Forest have probably hurt the most.
Players who have stood out have definitely been the three young lads as well as Wayne Rooney, the former England captain has been instrumental in resurrecting our season and has definitely given the club a massive lift. Jack Marriott has disappointed a little this season having only scored two goals in 29 appearances but I think this season has definitely ended the Derby career of Florian Jozefzoon.
Derby have really looked to push through some emerging young talent, what have you made of the clubs strategy now you have time to reflect on it?
I have always believed in the clubs strategy to bring through young players, Lampard brought Jayden Bogle into the fold last season, a move which paid off for him as Bogle remained his right-back throughout the season and was a key weapon going forward so I’m excited about what the future holds with this strategy in place. The emergence of the players this season just shows that if you give the lads a chance to just go and play their game, this can help them to thrive more than anything.
With the club sitting 5 points off the play-off places, do you think a top 6 position will be achieved come the 46 game mark?
Since the Charlton game at the end of December I believed we would make the play-offs, we had a tough start but thought we were just beginning to come into our own. This is the Championship and anything can happen, you only have to take a look at Aston Villa and Fulham over the past few years to know that, they both came out of nowhere to gain promotion via the play-offs so you always have to keep that bit of belief in you so I do think we will just nick 6th place come the 46 game mark.
What are your immediate emotions when reflecting on the journey as a whole? How would you rate the season out of 10 so far?
I’m currently happy with where we are as a club, the squad can be improved yes but that is what I imagine will be a priority for Philip Cocu in the summer. We are in a more stable position than most clubs in the division, it’s just finding the formula for promotion. I would rate the season an 8 so far, the problems Cocu has had to deal with off the pitch has made his job 10x harder than it needed to be and the fact we are still only five points off the play-offs after everything that has gone on is a testament to the work he has done for the club.
You can ask most Derby fans, they are more than happy with the work Cocu has done and this is the first manager I expect to stay for longer than one season.
What do you make of these thoughts Derby fans? Let us know in the comments below!