The calender year of 2012 has seen plenty of up and downs but here’s a look on the best moments and happenings during the year, from my perspective.
10) Derby 5-1 Watford. 1.9.2012
It’s not very often that we trash teams so when we do it’s a must to savour. The opening day of September saw the Rams demolish a Watford side managed by Gianfranco Zola at Pride Park. Usually a high scoring fixture like this sees a particular scorer make the score-sheet more than once, but this wasn’t the case – a real team display saw Derby end the game with five different scorers. Richard Keogh, Jeff Hendrick and Jamie Ward chipped in, while Conor Sammon got his first Derby goal on his home debut and Will Hughes scored his first senior goal.
9) The Academy continue to roll out talent.
The talent hasn’t stopped emerging from DCFC in the year of 2012. The policy of ‘if you’re good enough you’re old enough’ speaks volumes of the way youngsters are treated. Expect plenty more names to break through during the course of next year. Not only do we hear tales of young stars achieving England youth call ups and thriving in the under-18 squad but also we see names on the first team’s teamsheet week in week out of players that have rose through the Rams’ ranks. Credit must go to Academy boss Darren Wassall, who has built a wonderful youth productive reputation in football for Derby. Have a read of my article on the youth system by CLICKING HERE.
8) Midfield Maestro.
2012 has seen central midfielder Craig Bryson excel in Nigel Clough’s team, one memorable moment is definitely his winning goal at the City Ground. The Scotsman picked up the club’s player of the year award for the 2011/2012 campaign, which was indeed his first season in English football having signed from Kilmarnock in the summer of 2011. I’ve not seen a player that provides such energy as Bryson and he’s such a team player, working his socks off every game. Some matches during this year have made many realise just how much we miss him when he is absent from the side, for instance the 3-0 demolition at Peterborough and 4-1 defeat to Leicester. It’s quite amazing how he is frequently overlooked for the Scottish squad, I hope he adds to his one international cap during 2013.
7) Derby 3-1 Leeds. 7/12/2012.
The Rams’ recent record against Leeds United looked to be under a bit of pressure to end when Neil Warnock’s side, who were on a good run of form, visited Pride Park in December. It wasn’t to be how many Whites fans anticipated, Derby ran out deserving 3-1 winners. Goals from Conor Sammon, Jake Buxton and Ben Davies, not forgetting ex-Ram Paul Green’s Leeds goal, got their names on the scoresheet but it was another man who grabbed the headlines. 17-year old midfielder Will Hughes produced a masterclass performance, controlling the game in the favour of the Rams’ faithful.
6) Home Form.
Derby’s home form, throughout this current campaign, has meant the Rams can take a place amongst the top half, the away form hasn’t been quite as impressive. So far this season the Rams have only lost two of twelve home fixtures and six (league matches) in the whole of the calendar year. More Championship teams are now realising that Pride Park is a tough place to visit and how difficult it is to go home with all three points in the bag.
5) Bargain Buy.
On the 14th July Derby paid League One Preston North End £150,000 (reported fee) for midfielder Paul Coutts, who came to Pride Park with Rams fans having little knowledge on the Scotsman. He has turned out to be a brilliant signing, more than worth his small fee. Coutts links up well with right-back John Brayford, they’ve combined on more than one occasion to play a role in a goal – Craig Bryson’s goal against Forest was set up by their combination. Coutts works hard for the team and always looks positive on the ball, desperate to get it forward and help out.
4) Richard Keogh makes move across midlands.
Following on from the sale of central defender Jason Shackell many believed that he was irreplaceable and few went as far as demanding a refund from their season ticket purchases. Effectively Burnley bound Shackell was directly replaced by Coventry’s Richard Keogh, with the Rams fighting off competition from fellow Championship side Cardiff to win the Coventry player of the year’s signature. Many feared that he wouldn’t be good enough and that another defender needed to be signed to add to the cover for the long term injured club captain Shaun Barker, I believe they’ve been proven wrong. For me, Keogh has looked superb as a leader and in his defensive ability. I am really excited about the prospect of seeing him alongside a fully fit Shaun Barker, but for now him alongside Jake Buxton (currently out injured), who would do anything for the club, is good. Perhaps the Shackell sale was a blessing in disguise? I’m interested to know your opinions on that, just comment below.
3) The emergence of Will Hughes.
17 years old – we have to keep reminding ourselves of his age, he appears as somebody with the experience and knowledge of the game as what you’d expect for someone who’s been playing years. 2012 is the year that he has come to prominence and burst onto our scenes, not only making Derby fans around the stands at Pride Park aware of him but also the footballing world. Barcelona, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City have been linked with him, filing ‘detailed dossiers’ on the youngster. England under-17s call up in February, signs first professional contract in March, first Derby County first team start in April, becomes Rams regular for the 2012/13 campaign, agrees new deal up to summer 2015, achieves first England under-21 cap in November and wins the Football League’s young player of the month award for November – all in just one year, aged 17. Read my recent article on Hughes by CLICKING HERE.
2) Derby 1-0 Forest. 13/3/2012
While it’s amazing to see Will Hughes rise through the club’s youth system and now excel at professional level, there’s still no better feeling than beating your bitter rivals. On a cold March evening the Rams beat the enemy, from the other side of the A52, to ensure a double over the then relegation battling club. Sub Jake Buxton’s winner, in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time, won the game, which was slightly tarnished by a horrific injury to captain Shaun Barker. The goal, scored by Jake Buxton, was an extra special moment because many of his family members are Reds!
1) Forest 0-1 Derby. 30/9/2012.
It’s just brilliant to beat your local rivals on their back yard, isn’t it? Dexter Blacktock’s early second half sending off was a huge talking point from the game, Forest fans are yet to shut up about it today – to reiterate, there looked like intent and he had been in the referee’s face all game. It was Craig Bryson who bagged the goal, in front of over 4,000 roaring Rams fans in the Bridgeford End, on 55 minutes. This game was our third successive victory against Forest, oh the joys of winding up their fans!
Here’s a few more memories and good happenings that would be just outside of the top 10 above-
The 2-0 win at Elland Road back in Easter, a goal from Steve Davies and an exquisite strike from Craig Bryson sealed all three points against 10-men Leeds.
A 4-1 win against Blackpool back in November was a fantastic win, showing the Rams are capable of beating some of the league’s top teams. A Theo Robinson brace and goals from Conor Sammon and a rare goal from John Brayford gave the Rams a very deserving victory at Pride Park.
Arguably, the signing of Conor Sammon could be considered a good moment. It took him time to find form and produce better performances, but is he worth the £1.2 million reported fee? Sammon divides opinion amongst Derby supporters, where do you stand with him?
Another plus point in the 2012 half of this current campaign has certainly been Adam Legzdins finding form and bringing more competition to the number one goalkeeping jersey at Derby. Last season Frank Fielding was firmly number one but when he picked up an injury Legzdins seized his chance to impress with some fine displays. Since the former England under-21 has returned from an injury issue he has sat on the bench, with the ex-Burton stopper keeping his place.
Mark O’Brien has spent most of the year recovering from an injury and when the Academy product finally made his first start in just over a year V Bristol City in December it was great to see him back.
After a dismal 2011/2012 campaign Nathan Tyson has bounced back and got amongst the goals this season. Many, including myself, would certainly like to see him start more matches.
I’d also like to give Gareth Roberts a quick mention, who is the Rams’ ‘Mr Consistent’ in my opinion.
On a much less positive note, here’s a few of the bad points in 2012-
Shaun Barker’s injury to his knee was devastating, he had not long recovered from another injury and was just beginning to get back to his best. We won’t see him in action until next season.
Jason Shackell’s exit to Burnley was bad news at the time but some believe his replacement is much better. It was still a bad moment, losing such a good player regardless of how it’s panned out since.
Jamie Ward’s injury, picked up against the Reds, has kept him out for a long time. At times Nigel Clough has evidently missed him.
I would consider Steve Davies leaving for Bristol City to be bad, I liked Davies at Derby when he was kept injury free. We still don’t know the circumstances behind his departure, just ‘family reasons’.
One horror of 2012 for DCFC has to be the Capital One Cup defeat to Scunthorpe United back in August. Having lead 3-0 at half time and then 5-3 with 7 minutes of normal time remaining the Rams couldn’t hold on. It was a nightmare for Tom Naylor, who ultimately missed the decisive penalty in the shootout.
In the 2012 half of the 2011/2012 season Derby fans endured some miserable defeats to Leicester, Reading, Southampton and Watford.
Thanks for reading. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a brilliant New Year. Up The Rams in 2013!