Posted: 1/4/2008


    Derby County are in trouble, BIG trouble. Glued to the bottom of the Barclays English Premier League with 7 points they are definately going to be relegated after only one season with the mighty.

  Founded in 1884 the Rams were founder members of The Football League. They used to play at the old Baseball Ground, where the American game was played a long time ago. As the home of Rolls Royce, Derby should,  and now do have a slick stadium.  Pride Park is one of those 30,000 plus stadiums that are all over the country these days, and very safe and pleasant places to watch a match.-Bolton, Reading, Leicester, Southampton, Middlesborough, Coventry, Wigan, Hull, The Baseball Ground was hemmed in by terraced houses and after being converted to all seater only had room for 21,000. It was an unusual shape with two of the stands at an angle to the pitch, having been originally built during baseball times.  The new stadium is on the edge of town with a couple of restaurants and a hotel next door. Also a huge JJB Sport Store and a 10 pitch indoor soccer centre and an impressive gym, pool and saunas.  Derbyshire is a beautiful small county with only County, Chesterfield(due to relocate next year), and Mansfield Town in The English Leagues. It was during the Great Plague of 1665 in England that many small villages in Derbyshire were save havens because they had their own wells, for clean water. Since then these villages celebrate with annual Well Dressings. Villagers and tourists give thanks and decorate the wells with flowers.

    Their greatest ever player was Steve Bloomer, signed in 1892, but the team did well in modern times after legendary Brian Clough took over as manager in 1967 and they won the old First Division in 1972 and the following year lost controversially to Juventus of Turin in the semi-final of the European Cup, when it was suggested that the referee was 'bought'.  Cloughie had signed inspirational Scottish player and leader Dave Mackay, who succeeded him as manager and they won the league again in 1975. They boast an impressive 50 acre training headquarters at Moor Farm, on of the best in Europe.

   Pride Park is one of the noisist stadiums in the country-yes, they monitor this, with Sunderland's Stadium of Light the noisiest level.   Despite being bottom of the league the stadium was attracted over 30,000 with the home fans, and indeed the visitors from Blackburn Rovers, in good song. They are supposed to expand to 44,000 in a couple of years. Derby have struggled financially in recent times, and when Billy Davies their Scottish manager took them to promotional in May there wasn't much to spend on quality players.  He was finally fired a few weeks ago, but with ex Wigan manager Paul Jewell in charge and a progressive new owner, Adam Pearson, they are trying to hold their own.  He was a very successful commercial manager at Leeds United, then went and bought Hull City, built a new stadium for them and recently sold out and left them in good shape in The Championship.

    It's really too late to save the Rams, and they will go down again after one season and hope to spend their 'parachute' payment wisely and reform.  They have no European players and are weak all over. They took the lead against the Rovers with a Matt Oakley goal after 27 minutes. Then Steve Howard shot a penalty straight at Brad Friedel in the 38th minute(he was sold to Leicester City the following day) and within 60 seconds Paraguayan,  Roque Santa Cruz(ex Bayern Munchen) had converted a Blackburn penalty and up and coming England midfielder David Bentley scored the winner for Rovers, who took home the 3 points.  The Lancashire club have some useful talent including Australian captain Brett Emerton, New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen, Norwegian Morten Gamst Pedersen, Turkey's Tugay and of course world class Friedel.  Two Americans, Eddie Lewis and Benny Feilhaber play for the Rams but don't add much.

    Within a dozen miles are other soccer cities such as Leicester and Nottingham, and the easily reached EMA East Midlands Airport near Loughborough where I spent a year at graduate school. We dined there at The Moon and Bell.(part of the 700 pub Wetherspoons chain) In recent days they have got a lot of press and radio time about their sensible policy of allowing children accompanied by adults to enter, only if they eat, and adults restricted to 2 drinks, so as not to have bored children hang around while parents drink more.  I had Sunday lunch with Yorkshire pudding very late,about 9.00pm, which includes a free pint of beer, cider or other choices. Loughborough has a huge university polulation for a small market town and was the site of the first ever Cook's TourThomas Cook took a party of 570 non drinkers on the  new Midlands Railway train in 1884, the 11 miles from Leicester to Loughborough for a day out and a temperance rally,charging them 1 shilling including a meal  -the world's first tour group.