In this latest edition of the Last Word on Football’s new series, we put together the Team of the Decade for Derby County.
The 2010s were full of hope and then lots of heartache for Rams fans as they saw their side lose in not one but two Championship Play-Off finals. The sacking of Nigel Clough in 2013 saw Derby’s fortunes change as Steve McClaren led them to Wembley in his first season. Several more play-off challenges followed under the likes of ex-player Gary Rowett and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard before the decade was out.
Derby County Team of the Decade
Manager – Steve McClaren
A relatively simple choice for this role. McClaren took over a side that was marooned in the lower parts of the Championship. In his first match, spectating from the stands, he watched Derby go 4-1 down to Ipswich Town by half-time. A pep-talk from the ‘Wolly with the brolly’ later and Derby came back to draw 4-4. The Rams surged up the table and made it to the play-off final only to lose at the death to Queens Park Rangers.
McClaren left for Newcastle United the following season and later had a second spell at Pride Park which was less successful. However, he had created a level of expectation and optimism at the club that has continued ever since.
Formation – 4-3-3
The formation that has been largely synonymous with Derby’s style of play for the majority of the last decade. It was the favoured setup for both McClaren and Lampard as they led the Rams to Wembley Way.
Goalkeeper – Scott Carson
The former England international is currently on loan at Manchester City but had been a constant in the side until last season since he arrived in 2015. Scott Carson’s first three seasons saw him average clean sheets in 40% of the matches he played, and he often single-handedly delivered the Rams points.
Right-Back – John Brayford
Signing from Crewe Alexandra in 2010, the Derby faithful warmed to his attacking ability from the full-back position whilst also being a strong tackler.
He played every minute of football in his first season at the club and was named as the Player of the Year. Brayford continued to be an important part of the Rams defence until his departure to Cardiff City in 2013.
Centre-Back – Richard Keogh
A clear choice for one of the centre-back spots, despite his rather infamous departure from the club last year when he suffered serious knee injuries in a car crash between team-mates Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett.
With 357 appearances under his belt for the Rams and playing as captain for many of those, he will always be seen in high regard by many at Pride Park for his marauding runs forward and his endless passion while on the pitch.
Centre-Back – Jake Buxton
The phrase ‘cult hero’ comes to mind when discussing Jake Buxton. Brought to the club by Nigel Clough, his no-nonsense style was plain to see. Perhaps his chant of ‘Jake Buxton’s a football genius’ is somewhat tongue-in-cheek but he soon became loved by the fans. An injury-time winner against arch-rivals Nottingham Forest in 2012 didn’t harm his cause either.
Left-Back – Craig Forsyth
There are probably few players to suffer three ACL injuries while playing for one club, and not all on the same leg, but there are even fewer that have made 199 appearances for that same club.
Forsyth, despite his injury woes, has always returned to being number one choice at left-back whenever fit.
Defensive Midfielder – George Thorne
Another player blighted by injury, George Thorne’s Derby career was far shorter than many would have liked, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t impress.
He was on loan during the play-off final campaign of 2013/14 before he signed a permanent deal the following summer – a week later he suffered a season-ending knee injury in a friendly.
Injuries plagued his Derby career, yet when he was fit, Thorne’s ability enhanced the entire team – he was the linchpin that held the side together.
Central Midfielder – Craig Bryson
Yet another shrewd signing by Nigel Clough, Craig Bryson arrived in 2011 from Kilmarnock and only left last summer – he was another player that earned heaps of respect from the fans as a result of his efforts on the pitch.
A box-to-box midfielder that would run tirelessly, he also had the end product to match. His best moment in a Rams shirt came when he hit a hat-trick in Derby’s 5-0 ‘Deforestation Day’ win over Nottingham Forest in 2014.
Central Midfielder – Will Hughes
The final midfield spot is filled by one of Derby’s best youth products this side of the Millenium.
For much of the decade, Hughes was regarded as Derby’s ‘blue-eyed boy’ – all hopes rested with him, whether that be the price tag he would eventually allow Derby to cash in on or a helping hand in promotion, it could be said that neither fully arrived.
Before Hughes was sold to Watford for a mere £8 million, he offered creativity in the Derby midfield whilst not being afraid to shirk a tackle either. His most memorable moment for many associated with the club would be his back-heeled goal in the play-off semi-final that sent McClaren’s men to Wembley.
Winger – Johnny Russell
Another Scotsman that knew what it meant to wear the black and white, Russell was a hard-working winger that was of the similar ilk to Bryson and one of Clough’s last signings.
He netted 35 times and provided 34 assists throughout his 205 appearances for Derby – his most memorable moment has to be his wonder strike against Forest in that record-equalling win.
Striker – Chris Martin
Affectionately known as ‘The Wardrobe’ by some around Pride Park, his hold-up play and intelligence on and off the ball makes Chris Martin an invaluable asset to Derby still to this day.
His record of 74 goals in 217 games demonstrates his clinical nature in front of goal too, whether that be headers, tap-ins or goals from outside the box.
Winger – Tom Ince
Ince had skill and pace in abundance and on his day he could cause nightmares for defenders.
He’s possibly the most ‘marmite’ player on this team, splitting opinions across the fan base for sure. However, 38 goals and 17 assists in just 115 matches show just how influential he could be when in form.
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