When you are facing a crisis in football, you need a steady hand to guide you through the choppy waters. When Derby sacked Billy Davies they adopted a different approach as debut blogger Matt Tweddle discusses.
I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a brilliant first blog and I hope it’s the first of many more to come.
Once my interest was aroused by the chance to express my views surrounding ‘the worst decision my club has ever made’, many instances of past buffoonery circulated the murky waters of my cynical head. Let’s be painfully honest, as a lifelong Derby County fan there’s plenty of these moments of ‘enlightenment’ to choose from.
Now, most fans who know their football history and any Derby County fan worth their salt will pinpoint the answer to this question to that fateful day on 15th October 1973. The day Sam Longson accepted the late great Brian Clough and Peter Taylor’s (if somewhat bluffed) resignations. Without question THE biggest mistake Derby County Football Club have ever made and will remain so until the end of time. We all know the heroics Clough went on to perform at our dear and beloved neighbours Nottingham Forest down the now aptly named Brian Clough Way (*shakes fist).
I wasn’t born until 1980 so unlike my father, never felt the real ramifications and downright devastation that this brought upon our working-class, provincial footballing town, although I am reminded on a regular basis by fans of ‘them down the road’ and their two ‘poxy’ European Cups. Oh how they love to cling on to former glories, anyway, I’m digressing.
I will therefore base my decision on more recent calamities. After a very successful if somewhat surprisingly dull season resulted in (let’s be honest) a lucky play-off final victory against West Bromich Albion eventually catapulting The Rams into ‘the promised land’ (god I hate that metaphor), a spectacularly disastrous foray into Premier League life unfolded under Billy Davies. Millions upon millions of pounds were wasted to fund transfer fees and wages on terribly average players clearly not up to the job of turning Derby into anything barely resembling a half decent football team; Claude Davis, Robert Earnshaw and Kenny Miller painfully spring to mind at a mind blowing outlay of nearly £9 million. Yes, no need to rub your eyes, I said NINE MILLION POUNDS. Billy Davies was inevitably sacked after falling out with practically every breathing entity in Derby and so the job of turning the club around was to be bestowed to another.
So, the burning question on everyone’s lips was which inspirational tactician would be tasked with bringing in the much needed quality we so desperately needed without wasting further millions? Who was to be the laudable phoenix to bring the club from the flames of relegation? Our Saviour? Our Messiah? Enter Paul Jewell… Worst. Decision. Ever.
Jewell managed to instill a lack of confidence, belief and team spirit that will, in my opinion, never be surpassed. The damage he did to our club both on and off the pitch can never be underestimated and is only now beginning to be scooped off the pavement and deposited in the dog waste bin by Clough Jnr some five years later.
The Robbie Savage saga eptiomised the mind-blowing unprofessionalism and ‘boom or bust’ nature of his (mis)management. Savage, already a figure of extreme hate with Derby County fans after an outrageous last minute dive to win a penalty and three points for Leicester during a previous meeting at Pride Park was brought in for £1.5 million and immediately installed as captain, a bit of a slap in the face to the players already at the club. At 33 he was no spring chicken, more headless chicken and given a handsome 2 year contract to boot. The events that followed and indeed his shocking treatment by Paul Jewell led to Savage admitting in his autobiography that he considered self-harming; “I was planning to take the car out and smash it into a tree. Or go out and bang my head into a wall again and again. Just ending all the pain.” After losing patience with Savage’s below par performances on the pitch, Jewell’s method of motivating and refocusing an already fragile Savage was to freeze him out of the club completely. Initially making him train with the kids then banning him from the stadium altogether. This was all happening after relegation from the Premier League of course with a record low total of 11 points, whilst Savage was still earning an incredible £23,000 a week. After unsuccessfully attempting to ship him out on loan Savage was even asked to contact Ant and Dec (whom he was friends with) to enquire if he could secure a place on the popular reality TV show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! Robbie Savage was costing the club a fortune, a situation all of Jewell’s own doing.
All in all, appalling man management and a complete failure to take responsibility of his own failings.
Jewell amassed an incredible total of 24 signings during his spell of just over a year at Derby. A quick look back at the quality of players that he brought into the club for the Premier League relegation fight is alarming to say the least. Laurent Robert, clearly past his peak at the age of 32 was brought in and failed spectacularly, not exactly the type of guy to get you out of a relegation scrap. Similarly, Hossam Ghaly was also brought to the club shortly after showing his manager and fans terrible disrespect by throwing his Spurs shirt to the ground after being substituted during a Tottenham game, another Paul Jewell masterstroke. Other world beaters arrived in the form of striker Emanuel Villa (who?) costing £2 million with a return of 3 goals in 17 games, Gary Teale, Roy Carroll, and two completely unknown Australians Mile Sterjovski and Rueben Zadkovic also came through the revolving door. It’s no wonder we were record breakingly bad.
After embarrassing relegation from the Premier League made us a laughing stock, life in the second tier of English football was just as bad. More incredibly bad signings on silly wages followed after many of Jewell’s others were shipped out, the likes of Paul Connelly (handed the captains armband after Savage’s banishment), Jordan Stewart (later traded for the even more dire Lee Hendrie), Andres Pereplotkins and Przemysław Kaźmierczak were truly, truly awful, I say this from first-hand experience. More money was wasted on the likes of Liam Dickinson (who already had a reputation as bad apple) at £750,000 who unsurprisingly had such an attitude problem he didn’t make a single appearance for the club. A further £1 million was spent on injury-plagued Luke Varney and a literally unbelievable seven figure loan sum for Nathan Ellington who recorded a quite shocking return of 3 goals in 27 games. Truly mind-blowingly levels of utter shitness. It’s no surprise that it took Paul Jewell TEN MONTHS to secure his first league win for The Rams.
So bad was the situation at Derby under Jewell it proved all too much for right back Tyrone Mears. So desperate to leave the club he proceeded to climb through a window and crawl past Paul Jewell’s office in an attempt to avoid detection and collect his boots before jumping on a plane to join Marseille. Needless to say he never played for the club again. You just couldn’t make it up. To be honest I can’t say I blame him. Sacre Bleu.
Not content with destroying the club’s reputation on the pitch, Jewell went one step further. News broke in the tabloid press of a sex tape filming pervy Paul in an hour long ‘bondage romp’ with a young blonde. Now, this I might expect from a young, naive player finding his way in the world, but from a married 41 year old father of 2 that looks like a sack of spanners it is quite frankly disgusting, Paul Jewell is bad enough to look at with his clothes on so why anyone thought it fit to record this monstrosity on film is beyond me. I imagine the blonde in question, like all Rams fans, felt disappointed, let down and ultimately unfulfilled by Jewell’s performance. Again, you just couldn’t make it up.
Most involved in football would describe Paul Jewell as your typical modern day ‘merry-go-round’ manager but to me his managerial exploits represent an altogether different fairground experience more akin to that of the old waltzer; a dodgy, run down, expensive, nausea inducing ride that makes you vomit at the very thought of his disgraceful, bumbling tenure not just at Derby County but other clubs that had the misfortune to be exposed to his ‘if the going gets tough, sign more players’ attitude. Scream if you want to go (down) faster…
Appointing Paul Jewell and his pay now worry later attitude is without doubt the worst decision my club has ever made (during my lifetime). Stumbling from one catastrophe to another is his forte. Thankfully we’ve had the direct riposte in Nigel Clough to clear up the mess. Derby County will probably never shake off the tag of ‘worst club in history’. I like to think that Paul Jewell will never ever shake off the tag of ‘turnip-headed, money wasting sex pest’. Thanks for the memories Paul.
Be sure to follow Matt on twitter @tweddytwedds