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First team

Media View: Expert insight on Derby County

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be looking to break their duck at Pride Park Stadium when they face Championship rivals Derby County on Sunday (noon kick-off).

The Rams have been something of a bogey team to the Cherries, the hosts having registered a hat-trick of wins against the Dorset club at the venue since it opened in 1997.

Derby are rooted to the foot of the Championship having received two separate points deductions totalling 21 points after admitting breaching the Football League’s profitability and sustainability rules.

It has left them 18 points adrift of safety and in danger of slipping into the third tier for the first time since 1985/86, the Cherries’ only away win coming at the Baseball Ground the previous season.

Wayne Rooney’s team have drawn nine of their 17 games, including against high-fliers West Brom and Coventry, while one of their three wins came against fifth-placed Stoke City.

The Rams have also beaten Hull City and Reading, drawing five of their past seven games since triumphing 1-0 against the Royals at Pride Park at the end of September.

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Steve Nicholson who follows the fortunes of Derby in his capacity as football editor and chief football writer for the Derby Telegraph and DerbyshireLive.

DERBY COUNTY PROFILE

Ground: Pride Park Stadium

Nickname: The Rams

Manager: Wayne Rooney (appointed January 2021)

Club captain: Tom Lawrence

Current league position: 24th

Leading goalscorer 2021/22: Curtis Davies (three in the Championship)

Last game: Millwall 1-1 Derby County (Championship) 

afcb.co.uk: How would you sum up the season so far for Derby on the pitch?

SN: They have done quite well, all things considered. They have been in most games, they have competed in most games and the spirit is really good.

The character of the players is good and there’s a real togetherness between the team and the fans, almost like a siege mentality given all the other problems.

They have done okay on the pitch. There is more intensity about them this season than last season.

Wayne Rooney has certainly got them flat out and they are really putting in a shift. They know they have to do that in order to pick up points and win games.

You have to do that in the Championship and all teams know that. If you remove all the other issues and the points deductions, they have battled away quite well. 

afcb.co.uk: What is Wayne Rooney (pictured above) like to deal with from a media perspective?

SN: Very good. He never ducks an issue or a question. If he feels he’s got an opinion to give, he will.

For me personally, he’s been really good. He’s been very open and quite clearly is very determined to be a success as a manager and that was clear from when I first met him.

Everyone knows what he did as a player and what a glittering career he had, he was a fantastic player. But now, it’s all about Wayne Rooney the manager for him.

I think many people looking in from the outside will think he could easily have walked away from what’s happening at Derby but that tells you an awful lot about him.

As he says, he’s a fighter and he was as a player. He’s really determined to make his mark as a manager.

This season, I think he’s won a lot of admirers and emerged as a leader, not only on the football side, but on the other side as well.

Even though some people were maybe critical of him as a manager last season, they have been won over by that. 

afcb.co.uk: What’s the latest on a possible takeover?

SN: There remains a number of interested parties who are seriously interested in taking over the club.

The fact they have had a 12-point deduction and another nine-point deduction this week has put them in minus points.

They are 18 points from safety and could be looking at League One football next season. It is a really big gap to make up.

Given all that, the interest in the club from potential buyers remains. My understanding is those who are interested aren’t put off by the fact Derby County could be a League One club next season. 

afcb.co.uk: Give us your first impressions of Phil Jagielka (pictured above)?

SN: He has been an absolutely impeccable professional all his career. You don’t play the number of games he has if you’re not a top player.

He was a magnificent player for Sheffield United and for Everton and England as well. Wayne Rooney played with him at both Everton and for England. He’s carried it on at Derby.

He’s 39 and everyone looks at him and Curtis Davies and say the combined age of Derby’s centre-backs is 75. You wouldn’t know that from their performances.

They both have great experience and read the game really well. They give themselves an extra yard if they think they need to. Phil has been everything I expected, a top professional.

afcb.co.uk: Ryan Allsop (pictured above) was popular when he was at AFC Bournemouth – how has he fared at Derby?

SN: He joined up with them on trial in the summer and I know he impressed straight away. I joined up with the training camp and saw all the pre-season friendlies and that’s why he was one of the first free agents they signed.

Some fans looked at it and said why do they need another ‘keeper, they’ve already got Kelle Roos and David Marshall but he did really impress them.

He had a jittery couple of games in the Carabao Cup which I think was understandable because it had been a long time since he had played at Wycombe.

Roos was sent off in the defeat at Sheffield United and Ryan stepped in for the next three games and kept his place and deservedly so. His all-round performances in those games were very solid.

In some ways, you could say Kelle was unfortunate not to get his place back but, if you have genuine competition for places and if someone is doing well with that shirt whether in goal or outfield, they deserve to keep it and Ryan did.

All ‘keepers make mistakes whether it's Kelle, David or Ryan. But in his league starts for Derby, I thought he looked an all-round, solid ‘keeper.

afcb.co.uk: Who is Derby’s one to watch?

SN: Max Bird (pictured above) has developed into a very effective Championship midfield player this season. He’s 21 and he came through the youth system.

He’s very comfortable in possession and reads the game well. Wayne Rooney played alongside him when he first joined the club as player-coach and sang his praises then and continues to show a lot of faith in him.

Very recently, Wayne said he was very surprised and also disappointed that Max had not been given a call-up by England at youth levels. He believes his form for Derby this season merits a call-up to the under-21s. 

afcb.co.uk: Are any key players either suspended or injured against the Cherries?

SN: Nathan Byrne (pictured above) will serve a one-match suspension following his red card against Millwall.

The only main injury now is Krystian Bielik, a midfielder who plays international for Poland.

Bielik (pictured below) scored the winner in this fixture last season but suffered a second cruciate ligament injury a few days later against Bristol City in January. He was never likely to return to action until the end of this year.

He’s been a big miss and I don’t think Derby would have been in the relegation trouble they were in last season if he’d continued playing in the form and influence he was showing at the time.

He improved Derby’s team as a holding midfielder stationed in front of the back four. 

afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?

SN: The easy one to finish with!

Derby haven’t played Bournemouth, Fulham or QPR yet but haven’t lost to any of the other teams currently in the top six, drawing with West Brom and Coventry and beating Stoke.

Their home record is relatively strong. Sometimes in this division when you look at games like Bournemouth at home or Fulham away, which are Derby’s next two, it looks daunting and it is daunting.

But sometimes it works the other way and I’ve seen it so often.

Bournemouth are flying and have been brilliant. Scott Parker is doing a great job and everyone will expect them to win but the Championship is a strange division.

Derby have been in most games, although they don’t score enough goals. At times, they have been defensively quite secure.

It would be easy to say 1-1 and sit on the fence but I’m going to stick out my neck and go for a 2-1 win to Derby. 

You can follow Steve on Twitter – @SNicholsonDT

Officials: Gavin Ward (referee), Steven Meredith (assistant), Bhupinder Gill (assistant), Stephen Martin (fourth official).

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