Interview With An Away Fan: Derby County

(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

This is a little late but I wanted to ask the questions after the Rams played Ipswich on Saturday. Just like I said last week for the Watford game, I think this could be a lot harder than people think.

Ollie Wright was kind enough to give us his thoughts ahead of the game. If you want you can read his blog here.

After the jump you can see what he had to say!

12th in the table at the moment, are the Derby fans happy with that?

I'd say that in the main, Derby fans are hoping we're finally on the up and can do better than 12th next season. We've about had it with not being very good, frankly!

Attendances are gradually declining (averaging 26,000 this season), so ideally, we need to finish the season well, then start next season strongly to keep up morale around the place and keep the turnstiles rotating.

It doesn't seem like we're going to be doing much in the transfer marker this summer, but the current team have some promise and with a couple of good additions, we could do well next season - although much depends on how the other teams in the division are shaping up and the state of the clubs coming down from the Premier League (and coming up from League One).

If it's true that Financial Fair Play is not going to be introduced and clubs will still be permitted to run artificially high wage bills, then our owners' highly unfashionable balanced budget policy will continue to put us a competitive disadvantage, while protecting us from the threat of going out business.

Last time we spoke, it seemed like some Derby fans were slowly changing their minds about Nigel Clough. From the outside in it looks like he's done well. Are Rams fans still happy with him?

He has done well considering the financial constraints and most of the players he's brought in have been good signings. For example, Shackell, Brayford, Fielding, Ward, Bryson and Robinson have all been successes and even Chris Maguire, who has barely featured since signing from Aberdeen last summer, has gone out on loan to Portsmouth and impress (leaving us to wonder why Clough never really gave him a chance).

Not every signing works out, of course - the jury's still out of Nathan Tyson - but we have a decent first team and a decent home record, with 11 wins at Pride Park this season. Only two dreadful winless runs, in November and February, have prevented us from being in with a chance of reaching the playoffs and we've had an encouraging run stretching through March and into this month, with only two defeats in the last nine games.

You're unbeaten in three and I don't think it will be an easy game on Monday. Two of them are draws, but have you been playing well?

I think we have, in general. Although they can frustrate at times, I genuinely like this young team. All the regulars are reliable, hard-working and determined characters who keep going. Our players will fight for a result and our centre backs, Buxton and Shackell, will relish the psyhical confrontation. It should be a tough, tight game.

At Christmas time, you predicted [that Derby would finish] 12th ... almost psychic. Can you finish higher though?

I think we'll end up about where we are. We should pick up a couple more wins before the end of the season and if one of them is at Elland Road, the fans will be ecstatic!

Which Derby players are in form and therefore a danger on Easter Monday?

Good question. Clough praised Theo Robinson after the Ipswich game - Robinson's pace, poaching abilities and occasional moments of instinctive flair make him a goal threat and he is our top scorer this season. Teenage central midfielder Jeff Hendrick is maturing nicely and can create goals with his passing and surges forward. Free-kicks and corners are handled by Ben Davies, who is not the most eye-catching of wide midfielders, but can deliver from dead ball situations and is our main source of assists.

In terms of out-and-out 'danger men', though, I think we're a bit short compared to many Championship clubs, especially with Jamie Ward unlikely to start and Steve Davies doubtful due to illness.

What should we be expecting from the travelling support? Noisy and how many are believed to be travelling up north?

I understand that we haven't sold out our allocation of 1,500 tickets, which is disappointing, but some fans will just pay on the gate and die-hards who are making the effort will give your lot plenty of stick!

What formation do you expect the Rams to go with?

We've generally played 4-4-2 for the last couple of months, but we have a few forwards missing though injury and illness, so there's a question mark as to who will partner Theo Robinson up front. If Steve Davies doesn't recover from illness, it's possible that our 15-year old England youth international Mason Bennett could start.

Prediction for the match?

I watched the Yorkshire Evening Post's preview video and they seem to think that Leeds will beat us easily, which I thought a little odd, especially given the Whites' poor home form of late and the fact that our 1-0 home win on Boxing Day meant that we've won the last six meetings between the clubs.

That said, I'd take a draw tomorrow. We're missing too many strikers to expect to score more than one, so I'll go for 1-1.

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