This week, we welcome guest blogger, Darrel Bateman, to give us the lowdown on his very sucessful promotion campaign with Championship side, Derby County – here’s his season review:
After opting to start outside the Premier League this season, I took Derby County under my wing and led them to a winning playoff final, something Steve McClaren came short of in the last campaign. Initially being predicted to obtain a comfortable 9th place finish, this team (predominantly of young English talent) stepped into the title race from the off. Unfortunately due to a large consumption of late goals, key games were wasted where points were on the cusp of being achieved. This was not only a league issue, but a problem in our cup run where we fell short to Nottm Forest and Man City in the League Cup 3rd Round and FA Cup 4th Round respectively. Back in the Championship, Middlesbrough rose back into the Premier League, winning the title, while Blackpool’s unfortunate financial situation and lack of summer transfers was just the start to a bad season which ended with relegation.
One thing I have always admired about Derby in recent seasons is the level of determination shown by their players, alongside the high volume of young talent who are still to reach the peak and full potential of their careers. These are two of the key factors for me choosing to select this squad, more than the club itself.
As always, I saw a wide spread of goals including a surprise 12, that the central defenders contributed for the season. Johnny Russell managed to take the club and league golden boot award netting 26 goals. Johnny also managed to steal the most assists title with 18 and also the highest average rating for the season at 7.37. I think it is fair to say that without him, the season may have ended differently. Very little transfer activity took place through the 2014/2015 campaign apart from the arrival of Stephen Warnock to add experience to left back position (Note: this did recently happen in the reality during the January window, just saying). Minimal transfer activity had its benefits as it allowed me to continue providing opportunities to home grown and other young starlets such as Will Hughes, George Thorne, Kelle Roos, Ryan Shotton, Mark O’Bien, Mason Bennett and Jeff Hendrick. All these players have shown that a promising future at Derby is possible based on their first season performance; more so Will Hughes, who is the concrete fan favourite.
It was clear to see that scoring goals wasn’t an issue with the most in the league of 107, however we conceded the 3rd most in the league of 80. This clearly highlights an issue in the Goalkeeping/Defensive positions, something I intended to address in the summer transfer market.
Taking an overview of the squad into account and recognising I had 3 stirkers, it was very easy to identify playing one up top would avoid risk of fatigue and injuries in match selection. With a high number of attacking midfielders, I very quickly conclude to opt with my favoured 4-2-3-1 wide formation, adopting an attacking mentality in a flexible shape. I feel this encourages your team to express themselves and their individual talents without being restricted to structured play or losing fitness from attackers always tracking back in the fluid shape.
The second tactic I chose as a backup, or to switch up my style of play, was Van Gaals favoured 3-5-2 in a controlled mentality with a structured shape. My reasons for this were to have a tactic that would allow me to bring in young players with un-favoured experienced ones for the league cup and early stages of the FA Cup. This allowed the development through a controlled and disciplined approach, maintaining possession and only attacking when we deserve to or a clear route provided. I would often switch to this tactic when leading late on in rival games.
July 2015 arrived at a time when I was delighted to be presented with a £9mil transfer budget, which I slightly adjusted to just over £10mil, after requesting for an increase in the wage budget. Being promoted through playoffs and having a fairly young squad, I felt I needed to bring in some experienced players and strengthen my defence. Upon Jordan Ibe leaving, I decided not approach Liverpool in regards to a re-loan or seek a permanent deal, instead I decided to begin my search for experience. With West Ham being an unfortunate leaver of the Premier League, I successfully made Matt Jarvis my first signing of the transfer window. After this, James Tomkins and Bressan were signings secured by my Director of Football who surprised me with both of these signings, I was especially delighted with James Tomkins because even though he’s young he has the Premier League experience I set out to find. Ryan Shotton was already an agreed deal and currently on loan when the game began, but I was happy with this to become a full transfer as he proved a key starter in the Championship campaign.
Luke Garbutt is a young left back that I have admired for the past 3/4 seasons now and with Warnock ageing I saw this as a free transfer that could blossom into something special. Kyle Naughton is another transfer I chose to chase and add in regards to the Premier League experience attribute and though some may point out that he is still inexperienced and young, I needed a right back who has more to offer than Freeman. With Mackay-Steven, I initially took on trial for the pre-season period and having played in the Scottish top flight, he again held the experience I was looking to add. Due to wage budget restrictions I couldn’t initially sign him, but after a request was made and approved, this transfer eventually went through. My Director of Football found two loan signings which strengthened my defensive and central midfield positions, securing Benito and Radosevic. My final transfer I brought in is a prime example of what I was looking for at the start, Asmir Begovic. I felt by meeting his release clause and breaking the club transfer record I was signing someone who had vital experience and could put a cap on the number of goals we conceded in the season just passed.
On the offloading front, I didn’t feel it was necessary to let anyone leave who had a regular presence last season due to the success that was achieved. It can be seen that I let a number of young prospects leave who were not rated highly by my coaching staff.
I did move the following players into the Under-21s to keep them playing football but they are transfer-listed as they became surplus to requirements during pre-season; Jake Buxton, Cyrus Christie, Craig Forsyth, John Eustace and Conor Sammon.
2015/16 League Objectives
- Be competitive
- Improved cup runs
- Bring in more experienced staff or recent players
By Darrel Bateman
Let us know what you think of Darrel’s season. If you would like us to publish a review of your season, get in contact and tell us your story!