Derby aiming for play-offs while Forest want to end a slump
18 March ~ Not even news of Harry Redknapp joining by Derby County could overshadow the Rams’ biggest game of the season – the East Midlands derby with Nottingham Forest on Saturday lunchtime. Well, almost. As early reports broke on Monday, after a woeful capitulation to Rotherham two days before, it was made clear by chief executive Sam Rush that interim manager Darren Wassall (who replaced Paul Clement in early February) had asked the club to appoint an experienced coach or manager to help out, and there are few more experienced than Redknapp. Also, suspicions that he would take up a director of football role were wide of the mark – this is a temporary appointment in a purely advisory capacity.
Still, many Derby supporters were less than pleased at the news, and there is concern over Redknapp taking up a simultaneous role managing the Jordan national side, albeit only for two games. Apparently, Redknapp will advise Wassall for the Forest game and sit in the stands (rather than the dugout, as some thought) then jet off to the Middle East for the World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh and Australia later this month. The latter of those games is away from home.
Although Redknapp will obviously provide the media with their angle for the weekend’s game, there is another factor that provides a bit of added spice to what would ordinarily be a tense and potentially volatile match – namely that the two head coaches once played for the opposite side. Wassall has been promised the job until the end of the season (and not many of us expect him to continue much beyond that) but many fans are disappointed at his promotion from the academy and feel that owner Mel Morris (a friend of Redknapp, by the way) has effectively given up on the season. Furthermore, Wassall spent six years at the beginning of his career with Forest before joining Derby in 1992.
Following the sacking of Dougie Freedman last weekend, sitting in the Forest dugout will be Paul Williams, himself a former Derby player and cult hero who earned the affectionate nickname “Jossie”. Although Williams has coached extensively, his only high-level involvement in a more significant capacity is as head coach of Fredericksburg Gunners (nope, me neither) and assistant at Brentford alongside Lee Carsley, a job that lasted six months.
Williams’s first game was a creditable draw away at Hull City but the East Midlands derby will be a different matter entirely. Forest languish in 14th with only one win in their last seven matches. Derby are in better form (three wins in seven) but fans expect more than for the club to scrape into the play-offs. Derby’s level of expenditure this season is well known, but the club still expect to post financial figures before the end of the month that put them well within the acceptable bounds of FFP. Even though Morris has played down the need to earn promotion this season, the lavish amounts spent have inevitably raised expectations. Let’s now see if the appointment of Redknapp will lead to Darren Wassall being better able and equipped to meet those expectations. Not many Derby fans are holding their breath. Charlie Robinson
Photo by Colin McPherson/WSC Photography: Action from last year's game, a 2-1 for win the visitors