Earlier this week, Frank Fielding completed his move to Bristol City for an undisclosed fee on a three-year deal.
The 25-year-old was placed on the Rams’ transfer list following the conclusion of the season and the signing of Burnley shot-stopper Lee Grant, who will now take the reigns as the club’s number one.
When he arrived on loan back in 2010, the ex-Rover looked like a class act. He was initially bought in to cover for a few games but then proved to be so impressive that he remained on Nigel Clough’s radar – brought back in during the latter stages for a second loan spell and then subsequently on a permanent basis during the summer of 2011 for a fee believed to be £400,000.
During his first full campaign, I found him to be an excellent shot stopper, less so in distribution, but, still only relatively young, I thought he’d be the one for years. It was also fantastic to have a settled pair of hands in-between the sticks, with previous years having less continuity in first choice goalkeepers. Fielding ended the 2011/12 season as third in the supporters’ player of the season voting.
A year or so ago, Nigel Clough tipped the northerner to be Derby’s ‘keeper for years to come. I absolutely agreed and wished for the same. He could only improve, I thought.
Having started the 2012/13 campaign as the number one he was unfortunate to pick up in injury in early October. Prior to that, Fielding was part of the incredible 1-0 win over rivals Nottingham Forest at the City Ground – making a memorable save in the process. In what proved to be his final match before a long lay-off, Clough was critical of Frank for costing the Rams of a goal in a 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough. The injury proved to be longer than first anticipated and in came Adam Legzdins.
The ex-England Under-21 man missed 30 successive matches, with most of them due to being kept out of the team by Legzdins and not injury. I think that injury was the beginning of the end, had he not got injured then maybe I wouldn’t be writing ‘Farewell Frank’ now. After such a long time without playing he was never looked on the same, possibly less highly regarded amongst the club’s coaching staff. When back in the team, he wasn’t the same as a year ago and soon picked up a red card – his last piece of action in Derby County colours.
I am slightly surprised to see the former Blackburn Rovers player make the step down to League One as I thought he wouldn’t have too much trouble finding another Championship club. At League One level, I can certainly see him excelling. He is a great signing by Sean O’Driscoll, it’s rare for a player, cheap due to only having a year left to run on his contract, of such quality move down to the third tier. I’m sure it won’t be long before he’ll be back in the Championship.
I’ve always liked Frank at Pride Park and wish him all the best. Onward and upward with Lee Grant, a very capable and consistent goalkeeper at this level.