Derby County, in recent seasons, have had a more than unconventional relationship with their managers; stability is something the Rams have lacked for some time.
Gary Rowett was supposed to transform this stigma and was thought to be exactly what the Rams needed to finally find and restore balance at Pride Park. With his appointment came optimism and feeling. Reminiscent of a Shakespearean play—what had seemed so sweet has just ended in despair.
Derby have been plagued with managerial departures. Since Nigel Clough the Rams haven’t had a regular face for the half-time team talk. They have failed to keep the same manager for any longer than two years since the current Burton Albion manager parted ways with them.
In that time, they have had six different managers across five years. One recorded managerial stints on two separate occasions.
Results and failure are what normally prompt a manager to part with their club. However, the same can’t be said for Derby County. Steve McClaren and now Gary Rowett have been enticed by the idea of moving to clubs with bigger names: Newcastle United and Stoke City respectively. And Paul Clement…well that one remains ambiguous for good reason.
Club owner, Mel Morris, is particularly involved with everything associated with the club. The owner is by no means shy to express his love for the club. Supporters believed that a fan in such a position would boost the club indefinitely. Inevitably, though, discontent and arguments sprung up: from passion comes dismay and from dismay disagreements, which makes the atmosphere and relationship between employer and employee too hostile to handle. Morris’ heavy involvement with the club was criticised and pin-pointed as one of the main causes in Derby’s failure to keep a man in charge.
This season, again, seemed different. The relationship formed between Rowett and Morris was superlative. With Rowett as manager, the initial over-involvement of Morris subsided to that of what you would expect from a chairman of a football club.
In comparison to previous managers, Rowett performed surprisingly similarly.
Of managers who have taken charge of at least fifteen matches, Rowett has only succeeded Paul Clement in percentage of matches won. With a win rate of 43.4%, Rowett has a worse win percentage than both Darren Wassall (18 matches) and both of McClaren’s spells in charge.
Derby did reach the play-off semi-final this season after failing to achieve this last campaign. Rowett was appointed to shore up the Derby defence that had so often let them down in previous years. He did this by conceding just two goals fewer than last season. It was instead the attack that seems to have bolstered under Rowett’s first whole season. With a little help from Matej Vydra, Derby recorded seventy-one goals in the entire Championship season; that’s sixteen more than last season and four more than the season before that.
Despite improving upon last year and making the play-off places, Derby will feel that nothing much has really changed. Inconsistency has still prevailed—highlighted when the Rams lost 3-1 away at Burton Albion, but just ten days later they disposed of the eventually promoted Cardiff City with the same score line in their favour.
Once again Derby held a place in the automatic promotion places and let it slip, only to lose in the play-offs to Fulham. Improvement in efficiency has been seen with Rowett’s influence, but the fact remains—Derby went sideways in the season gone by, ironically similar to the style of football they saw under Rowett for much of the season.