Championship Analysis - Clough 'wins' sack race after Derby’s defeat to Nottingham Forest
Nigel Clough was the surprise victim of the Championship’s first sacking this season on Saturday evening after Derby had been narrowly beaten by East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest in the lunchtime clash.
Admittedly the 1-0 defeat at the City Ground was the Rams’ third consecutive loss, leaving the club in 14th place having been 7th following the majestic 5-1 win at Millwall just two weeks earlier, and Derby have so far only taken one point from a possible 12 at home, unsettling the Pride Park faithful, but one can’t help feeling the move - whether bold or not - is premature.
It perhaps epitomises the tightrope longer-serving managers - Clough was appointed back in 2009 - can sometimes walk. The club and its fans know they are largely in safe hands, but could it be at the expense of progression, the clichéd notion of a manager ‘taking a club as far as he can’. Indeed, a club statement read: “After much consideration, the board feel it is time to move Derby County forward to the next level.” The fact the club finished 10th last season, climbing from 12th and 19th the previous two seasons suggests Clough will feel hard done by. The next level is by no means guaranteed. Just ask Forest.
Despite such a fierce rivalry, Derby and Forest certainly enjoy their rides on the managerial merry-go-round. Clough’s legendary father Brian managed both clubs - the younger Clough also playing for Forest - and Billy Davies, who is currently in his second spell at the City Ground, took Derby to the Premier League in 2007. Indeed, only Paul Jewell filled the sandwich between Davies and Clough in the hotseat at Pride Park.
Even more intriguingly, one of the contenders to succeed Clough is reportedly Steve McClaren, who took over from Davies after his sacking at Forest in 2011 but left 10 games later. Forest’s fortunes dipped sharply following Davies’ departure and as such the re-appointed boss will probably be feeling Clough’s pain right now.
After their club’s humiliation at the hands of Derby, Millwall fans would have been rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the prospect of Clough losing his job before Steve Lomas, but just three games later the clubs are separated solely by goal difference. After the Derby debacle the Lions dusted themselves down to shock Blackpool, and followed a gutsy win over Charlton with an impressive victory over Leeds on Saturday, another team they have drawn level with.
Lomas looked a man down and out two weeks ago but subsequent events have reiterated just how fickle football can be; both he and his players have proved they can still match anyone on their day.
Dave Jones and Dougie Freedman will be hoping their respective boards at Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton stay patient. Both teams are winless and Bolton needed a last-gasp equaliser to avoid defeat at home to fellow strugglers Yeovil. The goal did lift the Trotters off the bottom at the expense of Barnsley on goal difference.
QPR remain top following a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough, described by assistant manager Kevin Bonds as “our best display of the season by a mile.” It was the first time QPR have won a match by more than a single goal margin, highlighting the team’s solidity at the back, as Saturday’s win marked a seventh consecutive clean sheet. Nevertheless, the Hoops are not in action on what is an otherwise full fixture list on Tuesday and will be overtaken by Burnley if the Clarets win at Doncaster, and also Leicester should the Foxes beat Yeovil by two goals or more.
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