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Players Build The Brand
DET Column
Tuesday, January 13 2009
Derby County started 2009 with two cup wins, which will be remembered for many different reasons. Other headline news at the club stole the limelight, as Nigel Clough succeeded Paul Jewel as manager. No matter how the club’s commercial ambitions are presented or marketing declarations given about our potential, it is the football product - what the team achieves - that will really propel the club forward.
Everything follows from success on the pitch. That’s where the passion and purpose of players that pull on the black and white shirt must be consistently displayed. Derby County can realise their dream of competing in English football’s elite division if good results are accomplished regularly, not once in a blue moon. Then, the fervour and loyalty of the fanbase can be amplified even further. The team must reflect the evidence that Derby County are in the top 12 best-supported clubs in the land.
A remarkable display to beat Manchester United in the Carling Cup helped to usher in the Nigel Clough era, as Academy coach David Lowe steered the Rams to a resounding result.  The players - some of them disregarded outcasts - put in 110% effort to master the Red Devils. In the last 18 months under the previous two permanent managers they were regularly accused of playing within themselves, lacking the hunger, desire and passion to succeed.
Davies and Jewell constantly told everyone, including the players, that they weren’t good enough. The negative mentality became ingrained, players were almost excused the need to compete and fight. Billy Davies never got to grips with the pace, power and punishment of the Premier League once promoted; Paul Jewell’s subsequent efforts saw the club collect an embarrassing array of ‘worst-ever’ records.
The Rams publicly surrendered their Premier League place with half of the 2007-08 season remaining and certainly didn’t ‘hit the ground running’ last August, despite the alleged advantage of many months of planning.
Jewell’s 2008-09 promotion promise foundered after an alarming tail-off. Results forced Derby to look over their shoulder at clubs propping up the Championship table. Both Davies and Jewell failed to forge a football style to echo the legacy of the entertaining and successful teams fashioned by Brian Clough, Dave Mackay, Arthur Cox and Jim Smith.
To beat United was therefore an unexpected and astonishing result that reverberated around the world’s sporting headlines. Everyone except Red Devils’ fans enjoy a Manchester United defeat and afterwards, Derby were the toast of message boards and radio phone-ins. Derby stole United’s thunder and the players demonstrated that to build a brand you must first perform well and attract positive attention.
Success feeds success and many of the same players carried themselves with renewed pride against Manchester United, giving everything to produce the thrilling outcome. Whilst Nigel Clough has a huge task to prune and shape the squad into an effective unit, the game indicated that Adam Pearson was indeed correct in saying that there must be 15-20% more to be given by the current crop of players.
Clough’s arrival multiplied the goodwill that the Rams’ display generated and many football followers welcomed the rekindling of the Rams’ fortunes, anticipating Nigel to follow in his father’s footsteps to bring success back to Derby County.
At the New Lawn, the horror on the faces of the long-suffering Rams’ faithful was in danger of turning into hostility and abandonment as fans watched Rovers storm into a two-goal lead. Some of those players are sadly not strangers to supporters turning on them with chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt!” Repetition of that insult seemed a real possibility as the Blue Square side initially tore Derby apart.
The surprise that Nigel Clough chose to take the major step up from Burton Albion to the Derby County hot seat has subsided with more focus on his calm, intelligent style and the comprehensive achievements over a decade at Burton Albion.
He does not carry the millstone of his father’s vast legacy around his neck but instead celebrates and cherishes that heritage and his family’s contribution to Derby, their home city. Therefore, players must no longer be intimidated by Derby’s history or the expectations of fans and investors as they carry the future.
It’s clear in the way Nigel speaks and conducts himself that his father’s imprint is deep; he’s a talented achiever with high standards but accomplishes successes through a quieter, even self-effacing style.
Older fans are misty-eyed and energised by the thought of another ‘Cloughie’ leading Derby to glory and younger supporters are excited and refreshed at having one of the game’s most successful young managers coming in to restore Derby pride after recent awful disappointments. 
Derby County have re-ignited their season; Clough’s arrival will put bums on seats, fans following Nigel’s progress and expecting improved results.. All are at pains however to refute any suggestions of an emotional or novelty appointment; that idea does great disservice to Nigel Clough and the Rams’ boardroom ambitions to make the club great again.
Managing the Rams is a huge task. It attracted two dozen applicants; many well-worn managerial candidates would have relished the job and a few young pretenders thought they were man enough for the task. Billy Davies was the brash, irascible motor mouth that fired the Rams into the Premier League before burning out like a damp firework on a wet Bonfire Night, followed by the matey and jocular Scouse endeavour of Paul Jewell, who couldn’t convince himself or the players how good they can be.
Nigel Clough has the unique opportunity to rebuild the club at which he spent his formative years in the dugout, as the genius of Brian took Derby right to the top. He knows he has Derby’s huge fanbase willing him onwards with every fibre of their remarkable loyalty; he knows also that there must be an end to the instability and disappointment that has characterised Derby since the turn of the century.
To join RamsTrust, go to or write to RamsTrust, PO Box 6377, Derby DE1 9XP or telephone 0870 4321871 and leave a voicemail message.
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