Taking Derby back to the big time...


Jun 19, 2013
Reaction score
View attachment 364794
This is my first story on here, but I decided I'd take on the challenge of returning Derby County to the Premier League!
I'm using the most recent summer transfer update of LFC Marshall (the temptation to have Johnny Russell was just too much).

I will be looking to continue the Derby policy of signing young, lower league talents alongside their successful youth team players for long term stability and, hopefully, success! I aim to instigate a quality scouting network to scour the lower leagues for talented individuals and develop a quality side over the long term. As for the playing style, I like aggressive, energetic sides with flair and creativity in abundance, so I will be looking to re-energise the Rams with this type of player.

My transfer budget is £1.2m and I have a wage budget of £161,000 - giving me £20,000 left to manoeuvre with, prior to player sales.

The team report is below:


Adam Legzdins
View attachment 364865Adam's been at Derby for a few seasons now, but doesn't really look like anything other than a decent back up keeper. Good reflexes and handling and undermined by terrible mental attributes. Relatively high wage for a back up keeper (£3.5k p/w) and decent transfer value (£900k) mean he will most likely be sold.

Lee Grant
View attachment 364798
The club's best goalkeeper. Decent attributes across the board, barring his one on ones (9). A few poor physicals but the most important, Agility/Jumping, are both 14. Wages of £9k p/w and a transfer value of £2m, as well as his increasing age (29) mean he could end up as a potential candidate for a sale, but only if I can find better. Will probably remain as the club's number one.

The Rest:

Saul Deeney is terrible and will be sold immediately. Ross Atkins is currently out on loan with Alfreton but probably won't amount to anything. Norwegian youngster Mats Morch could potentially become a decent backup keeper, but it's doubtful.

The Defence

Richard Keogh - RB/CB
View attachment 364835
Equally capable at RB and CB, Keogh is a vital member of the Derby County squad. Great attributes across the board and his brilliant Influence (18) makes him captain material. Probably more at home in the centre of defence as opposed to full back due to minor deficiencies in his Anticipation (10), Marking (10) and Pace (11). Otherwise an excellent defender and will play a key role in Derby's potential success.

Mark O'Brien - CB
View attachment 364836
Talented young centre half. Still only 19 with lots of scope for improvement. Most important defensive attributes are already excellent for Championship level. Would like to see improvements in Aggression, Anticipation, Concentration, First Touch and Passing and Positioning. But is already a great player and can expect to see a fair bit of first team action this season.

Kieron Freeman - RB/LB
View attachment 364837
Freeman is potentially a decent player in both full back positions long term. Has a long way to go, but will cover both full back positions. Still very young, with excellent physical attributes.

John Brayford - RB/RWB/CB
View attachment 364838
Star player. Brilliant full back, with excellent mental and physical attributes, and the main defensive technical attributes. Can also do a decent job at centre half, but I'm reluctant to play him there because he's only 5'8". Will be my first choice RB.

James O'Connor - RB/CB/LB/DM
View attachment 364839
O'Connor is nothing more than a defensive utility player. Not good enough to start, but I doubt I'll be able to sell him in the first season, as he's only just joined. Decent defensive attributes, apart from his positioning. Poor height (5'11") and Jumping (10) mean I won't be using him at centre half. Will try and sell but not expecting much.

Tom Naylor - CB/RB/CM
View attachment 364840
The youngster looks a decent player, but there's a lot of room for improvement. With the competition at CB, is unlikely to get a game. Will probably send him out on loan for the season and re-evaluate his position with the club at the end of the season.

Shaun Barker - CB
View attachment 364841
Excellent centre half. Great attributes, lots of experience but very injury prone. High wage (15k p/w) and high transfer value (£2.1m) coupled with increasing age and injury record make him a potential candidate for sale, but only if I can find a quality replacement. Will probably stay for at least the season.

Valentin Gjokaj - CB
View attachment 364844
The Swiss youngster looks quality. Will probably be 3rd/4th choice this season but will enjoy match practice in the cup games and I will ease him into the first team slowly. Excellent physical attributes coupled with good defensive attributes (minus his positioning, which is only 10) already make him a decent player. At just 18, I have very high hopes that he and O'Brien can become my long term central defensive partnership.

Craig Forsyth - LB/LWB/LM/LW
View attachment 364845
Looks much more suited to a role on the left side of midfield rather than full back. Still only 23 so has room for improvement. Good physical attributes, but defensively looks poor (Marking 9/Tackling 7). Will probably start as back up down the entire left flank - meaning a LB is now a priority position.

Jake Buxton - CB
View attachment 364846
Half decent CB, but is unlikely to play for me. Hopeful of earning some decent cash from him though - transfer value is £575k. Could potentially keep for a season if I can't find a buyer.

The Rest:

Youngster Luke Adams could become half decent, so he will most likely leave on loan. Josh Lelan has the potential to be better than both Gjokaj and O'Brien. Just 17, I will most likely leave him in the reserves for this season, with view to a loan depending on how he does. May even be tempted to use him in some cup games. Young LB Michael Hoganson is also just 17 and looks like he also has potential Premier Division class. Needs a loan this season, maybe I'll begin to ease him into the side next year.

The Midfield

James Bailey - DM/CM
View attachment 364847
Young Central midfielder has some ability, and some excellent mental attributes, but may end up leaving due to overcrowding/better targets. Would have no problem with using him if I don't sell though. His transfer value (750k) may be the deciding factor here.

Paul Coutts - CM/RM
View attachment 364848
Equally at home in the centre or on the right hand side, Coutts will become an integral part of the squad here. Just 23 and on very low wages (4k p/w!). Looks like a good ball player, with some good mental and physical attributes. Still has scope to improve. Also looks like a potential set piece taker - Corners/Free kicks both 15.

Michael Jacobs - LM/RM/LW/ST
View attachment 364849
Jacobs is another young talent at Derby. Most comfortable down the left hand side, he has good flair and creativity, coupled with pace and good technical attributes. His mental attributes definitely need some work, but I have high hopes for Jacobs - at just 20, he has a lot of scope for improvement.

Jeff Hendrick - CM
View attachment 364852
The young Irish midfielder is another home grown young talent at Derby. Just 20, he already has brilliant physical attributes and very good mental ones. His technicals need a lot of work, but the talent is definitely there and I expect big things from him at this level.

Ben Davies - LM/CM/RM/LW/AM/RW
View attachment 364853
One of the elder statesmen in the squad at 31, Davies is incredibly versatile and technically proficient. Has excellent set pieces and would give me more creativity in the midfield. With age against him and competition for the places he operates, I'm unsure about keeping him. Possibly for a season, purely for his versatility, and because his transfer value is already quite low - just £120k.

Craig Bryson - CM/AM
View attachment 364854
Bryson is an excellent central midfielder at this level. Fantastic physical attributes are highlighted by his Stamina (17) and Natural Fitness (19). His high levels of Determination (17) and Work Rate (19) also appeal to me. He's also half decent technically, and still fairly young (25). Will have a key part to play this season, for sure.

Will Hughes - CM/AM
View attachment 364855
Here he is, the golden boy himself. Hughes looks phenomenal already for a 17 year old. Brilliant Technique, Dribbling and Passing (all 15) coupled with high creativity and flair (14) make him an ideal candidate for the AM position. At just 17 he is only going to get better and better, and I'm looking forward to utilising him this year. My potential success with Derby will depend on retaining the services of this guy, definitely.

Jamie Ward - LW/RW/ST
View attachment 364856
Could potentially be in the forwards section, but I plan on utilising him out wide. He's quick, aggressive and a hard worker who possesses excellent technical attributes. I'm hoping for a lot of goals and assists from this man, although his low composure (10) does worry me slightly. Still think he could potentially break double figures this season.

There aren't really any up and coming young midfielders outside the first team squad at the moment.

The Forwards

Johnny Russell - LW/RW/ST
View attachment 364857
Equally as good through the middle as he is out wide, Johnny is an aggressive, pacy attacker who can score and create in equal measure. I haven't decided where I plan to utilise him this season, but he may end up being in all 3 positions over the course of the season. I'm hoping for at least double figures from the forward this year.
Chris Martin - AM/ST

View attachment 364858
Chris is technically very good, and couples this with decent composure and movement off the ball (both 13). Physically he's neither quick nor great in the air, so I'm not sure how to get the best out of him at the moment. I'll see how he does throughout the season before making a proper judgement, but I do feel I have better alternatives in the squad.
Theo Robinson - ST

View attachment 364859
Pace to burn, but technically dire. I've had players of this ilk in previous football manager games, and suffice it to say I've never had much success with them - at least not above non league level. Has a decent finish on him (13) but has low composure (10). Out of contract at the end of the season and high transfer value (950k) coupled with other alternatives means I'll probably end up selling.

Conor Sammon - ST

View attachment 364860
My coaches aren't too keen on Sammon, but I do see some potential there. He's great physically, and with his height (6'3") I think he could make a decent target man. Great work rate and determination, good pace and strength and a half decent finish. Low composure (10) could be a problem. I'm willing to give him the season to prove himself.

Nathan Tyson - LW/ST

View attachment 364861
Same as Robinson - quick as lightening, technically awful. Will be sold, no doubt about it.
Callum Ball - ST

View attachment 364862

Another Derby academy product, I see potential in Ball. Good finish, good in the air, physically imposing. Still only 19, so I'll probably send him out on loan and re-evaluate his position next season.
Mason Bennett - AM/RW/ST
View attachment 364863
Again, another Derby academy product, but Bennett is just 15. Physically he's already very good, and has a decent finish on him. I may give him a cup game or two this year, depending on the opposition, but otherwise he'll be remaining in the youth and reserve teams. Fantastic potential though, and it won't be long until he's playing a regular role for me.

There aren't really any other strikers to mention - although I will be sending American youngster Conor Doyle out on loan, I don't expect him to amount to much.

The Verdict

Upon analysing the squad, I can see the immediate need for a quality LB, followed by a proper winger, central midfielder and a striker. Less important would be a new back up keeper and AM. I'll finish up on my summer transfers and pre season friendlies and update then!

Any feedback/advice on how to improve it etc is encouraged and appreciated! Cheers.

Nice start. Please make this along story. Being so gutted in the fact there have being about 6 derby storys and none of them have even got into the 3rd season!
Wow fair play for putting in that effort. Sounds like an interesting story keep the updates going!!
Transfers and Pre Season

It's been a busy summer of activity at Derby County so far, as I try to build a squad capable for a tilt at the play offs. There isn't a great deal of money available, and a lot of my favoured targets may have to go into a long term group.


Ross Turnbull, GK - Free
Danny Grainger, LB - Free
Billy McKay, ST - £900k from Inverness CT
Elliot Grandin, CM/RM/AM/RW - Free
Ed Upson, CM - £650k from Yeovil
Arnor Smarason, CM/AM/RW/LW - Free

I wasn't really going to sign a first choice keeper unless I could sell Lee Grant, but Turnbull came along and I couldn't resist. Really good keeper for this level, will provide Grant with a lot of competition for the number 1 spot.
Danny Grainger joins as the club's first choice left back. He's a good age, at only 25, and has sound defensive attributes across the board. Passing and Anticipation (10) will be worked on, but he looks more than capable for this level.
I probably overspent on Billy McKay, but Crystal Palace had offered Inverness CT the same amount and I really wanted him...McKay will start the season as the club's first choice forward. Good technique, finishing and first touch, along with great physical attributes. His stamina and phenomenal work rate mean he'll close down and harry the opposition defence and help us defend from the front, while his off the ball movement combined with his pace makes him a real threat to defences at this level. Really glad to have him on board, and I thoroughly expect 20 goals this season from him.
Really pleased with Elliot Grandin joining. He's only 24, but is technically good, has decent pace and can play wide right or behind the striker. Lack of teamwork and work rate is a downfall, but Grandin provides us with the pace and flair I want my team to play with.
Ed Upson comes in from Yeovil to provide competition. He's just 22, so has time to improve, but already has decent technical attributes and looks like he'll be a threat from range (Long Shots 16). Effectively replaces James Bailey who was sold, as you'll see below.
Smarason comes in as cover across the attacking midfield positions, and in particular AM as Will Hughes' deputy. Decent player at a young age, but I'm not expecting him to remain here long term.

I had my sights set on Peterborough pair Tommy Rowe and Lee Tomlin, but both were out of my price range. May have to look into the possibility again in January or at the end of the season!


Luke Adams - York City, Loan
Josh Lelan - Coventry City, Loan
Callum Ball - Sheffield United, Loan
Michael Hoganson - Fleetwood Town, Loan
Tom Naylor - Coventry City, Loan
Conor Doyle - Shrewsbury, Loan
Theo Robinson - Barnsley, £750k
Saul Deeney - Forest Green, Free
Jake Buxton - Released
Nathan Tyson - Released
Ben Davies - Ipswich, £120k
James Bailey - Millwall, £575k
Adam Legzdins - Leicester, £250k

Adams, Lelan, Hoganson, Ball, Doyle and Naylor all leave the club on season long loan deals, where I will be monitoring their development, hopefully with the intention of giving them first team football here in the not-to-distant future.
Robinson leaves after Barnsley offered silly money for him, and I signed his replacement in McKay.
Deeney was useless and had no place in the squad so joins Non League Forest Green, which is about his level.
Couldn't find any takers for Buxton or Tyson so I released them just to get them off the wage bill.
Ben Davies wasn't going to get game time and wasn't really good enough anyway, so he leaves.
I didn't quite get as much as I wanted for James Bailey, but again, there wasn't really enough room in the squad for him and I had better options available.
Didn't get anywhere near as much as I'd hoped for from Legzdins' sale, but he wasn't going to get a game so at least he's off the wage bill.

Pre Season Games

Derby County 3 - 1 Stevenage
(Hughes, Hendrick, Sammon)

MOTM - Will Hughes

Wasn't the greatest performance in the world, but two late goals from substitutes Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon secured the win. The players didn't seem entirely comfortable with my new formation but hopefully after a vigorous summer of learning it, we'll start the season fully capable of playing it. A good start though.

Derby County 2 - 1 Mansfield Town
(Grandin, 2)

MOTM - Elliot Grandin

This was essentially my reserve team plus Grandin, who was making his debut. We played okay in patches, but we conceded a sloppy goal and Grandin aside, we didn't really have any standout players. Chris Martin had a real shocker, spurring three sitters. Pre-season is just about the fitness, but I'd like to see an improvement on the pitch as well.

Derby County 3 - 2 AFC Wimbledon
(Sammon, Coutts, Russell)

MOTM - Connor Sammon

The lads deserve a lot of credit for the comeback - we were 2-0 down just minutes into the second half - but this was another really poor defensive display, we're giving away really sloppy goals. O'Connor had a nightmare at left back and I may try and offload him because he's failed in every game I've played him in. On the upsides, Sammon looks really difficult to play against and he runs the channels well. All in all though, another fairly average display and we need to improve.

Derby County 4 - 1 Burton Albion
(Russell 2, Coutts, McKay)

MOTM - Johnny Russell

By far the best performance of pre-season so far. First half was fantastic, and Johnny Russell looks a real threat down the right hand side cutting in on his left foot. He scored two great goals from outside the area, and it was great to see McKay finally get a goal as well. We still conceded a silly goal, but the performance was much improved.

Derby County 1 - 4 Hannover

MOTM - Will Hughes

Really poor performance today, but I can't say I wasn't expecting it. Hannover are far superior to me at the moment and the gulf in quality showed. The only player who looked even remotely comfortable alongside them was Will Hughes, who was excellent and provided the assist for McKay's consolation goal. A poor display, but I'm not too concerned as victory was always a long shot. We begin our competitive matches in the Capital One Cup vs League 2 side Exeter...


Finally, I settled on two different tactics this season - a straight forward 4-4-2, with high intensity and pressing, aiming to control the game, which I plan to use at home or against teams I really should be beating.
On the flip side, I have a 4-2-3-1 formation which I plan on using away from home or against much stronger sides, with the emphasis on sitting deep and striking on the counter with pace. I'll see how these tactics work in competitive games!

Next update will include results from both August and September, probably be later on today :)

Last edited:
Cheers for the comments by the way guys, and don't worry Hughes is going nowhere!

Derby County 3 - 2 Exeter City (A.E.T) - Capital One Cup
(Bryson, Jacobs, Barker)
MOTM - Shaun Barker

Poor defensive display again, although I did put a lot of my back up players out for this one. Forsyth just doesn't look like a full back, and Freeman wasn't terrific on the other side. Good performances from Michael Jacobs (1 goal, 1 assist) and Bryson in midfield are the main plus points. Exeter were really up for this, hoping for a scalp and I'm just relieved we won it in the end. Next up in the cup are rivals Notts County...

Derby County 1 - 0 Yeovil
MOTM - Shaun Barker

Didn't create enough in attack but a wonder strike from 25 yards from Jamie Ward gave us victory. We were solid enough defensively but I never felt we were completely comfortable. Some players are still adjusting to a new team and for some reason the players aren't responding to my team talks very well - something I need to work on, perhaps. A solid start though.

Leicester City 0 - 0 Derby County
MOTM - Shaun Barker (again!)

After all my complaining at our defence, it now seems we can't score! It's a good point away from home though and I'm sure if I can be in and around the play off picture 10-15 games in, the squad will have gelled more and we can really kick on from there. Really glad I didn't decide to sell Barker though, the guy is a machine!

Derby County 0 - 0 Reading
MOTM - Shaun Barker

Pretty dire game if I'm honest, only 3 shots on target all game. Need to work on our attacking movement because we're just not creating enough at the moment. Defence has improved a lot though, Barker is brilliant.

On a side note, young keeper Mats Morch leaves on loan for Colchester, and forward Connor Sammon fractured his wrist and will be out for 6-7 weeks. :(

Notts County 0 - 1 Derby County - Capital One Cup
MOTM - Craig Forsyth

Not the greatest game, but we won the game courtesy of a McKay penalty - his first goal for the club. Some good displays from young defenders O'Brien, Gjokaj, Freeman and Forsyth. Another clean sheet is something to take from this, but we have to start improving our forward play. Blackpool away in the 3rd round next - optimistic about a decent cup run now.

Player Of The Month

Well, it can only be one player - Shaun Barker! What a month for the centre half, with MOTM displays in all 4 games he played in, 3 clean sheets and a goal to boot. Hopefully he'll be able to maintain this sort of form for an entire season.

Overall, an unbeaten start to the season, 4 clean sheets in 5 games and sitting just outside the play offs in 8th as it stands. A promising start to the season for sure, but we've got to start scoring goals.


Huddersfield Town 2 - 2 Derby County
(McKay, Hughes)
MOTM - Mark O'Brien

A good game to watch. We were full of attacking endeavour for once, and we really could've won it - although the draw was probably a fair result. Danny Grainger had a bit of a 'mare at full back and Huddersfield exploited this with 2 goals down his side before I finally removed him. I'm hopeful McKay will go on a scoring run from here and Hughes got his first goal for the club, so I'm sure he's happy too.

Watford 2 - 3 Derby County
(McKay 3)
MOTM - Billy McKay

That was definitely one for the neutrals! The board wanted fast attacking football, and they certainly got it today. I'd hoped for a goalscoring run from McKay and a hat trick here today was a good way to continue it! We could've quite easily lost this on another day but the lads showed real resilience and dug in deep to score late on to win it. Grainger had another shocker at left back so I'm debating giving Forsyth a chance in the league...
Special mention must go to Jamie Ward, who created 2 of McKay's 3 goals today, great display!

Derby County 3 - 0 Leeds United
(Grandin, Ward, Russell)
MOTM - Jamie Ward

Our best performance of the season so far. Brilliant in both attack and defence for the first time - looks like we've finally got the right formula! Ward was magnificent again today, and I'm glad Grandin and Russell are both off the mark now too. Special mention to Craig Forsyth, who I threw in at left back and rewarded me with a top display. More of the same please!

Derby County 1 - 1 Charlton Athletic
MOTM - Richard Keogh

We were battered today. But we held our own and battled until the end. Defensively we were excellent - although I'm disappointed that we conceded at a set piece. McKay scored again and Keogh stepped out of Barker's shadow with a masterful centre half display. Good result, all things considered.

Blackpool 2 - 1 Derby County - Capital One Cup
MOTM - Valentin Gjokaj

I made a lot of changes ahead of our weekend clash against high flyers Barnsley, but the first half was dire. We were 2-0 down, so I made a few changes at half time, gave the players a rocket up their backsides and second half we were brilliant. Substitute Hughes gave us hope, but Blackpool held firm against our onslaught to hand me my first competitive defeat as Derby manager. Grainger was poor once again at left back - starting to think this may have been a bad signing...

Paul Coutts also picked up a twisted ankle in the game and will be missing for 4 weeks.

Barnsley 1 - 2 Derby County
(McKay, Hughes)
MOTM - Shaun Barker

Things didn't get off to a great start when Turnbull's goal kick went straight to former striker Theo Robinson...who naturally scored and gave me two fingers. But we got to half time still in the game and after a rollicking we came back out and dominated. We seized the initiative early on in the second half through McKay, and then Forsyth darted into the area and pulled back for Hughes to win it. Really starting to build some momentum now, just hoping it doesn't collapse when we finally lose!

Player Of The Month

There genuinely are a few candidates for it this time around, but I think it has to go to Billy McKay - his 6 goals have really kick started our season. The Northern Irish forward had competition from the likes of Will Hughes and Jamie Ward though, which goes to show how good we've been this month!

Overall, September has been a fantastic month that we really need to build on. Disappointed to go out of the cup, but the league is more important for me anyway. We're currently 4th in the table, with 16 points from 8 games. Still unbeaten though!

View attachment 365090

As always, any advice on how to improve it etc is most welcome :)
This is great when will the next update come?? Plus, to improve this you could do 4 things 1. Do goal of the month 2. Show us The league table every month(u didnt for August) 3. Show us the picture of your result ( so we can see the stats) 4.tell us the fixtures before the month apart from those 4 things this is awesome so carry on cant wait for the next update! Keep it up!
This is great when will the next update come?? Plus, to improve this you could do 4 things 1. Do goal of the month 2. Show us The league table every month(u didnt for August) 3. Show us the picture of your result ( so we can see the stats) 4.tell us the fixtures before the month apart from those 4 things this is awesome so carry on cant wait for the next update! Keep it up!

I'll probably have the update for October/November up by tonight :)

Cheers for the advice mate, I'll start showing the table/results in every post and the fixtures at the start

Some big games coming up this month...

Bournemouth A
Blackburn Rovers H
Blackpool H
Birmingham City H
Doncaster Rovers A

I expected 10-12 points on paper given our recent good run of form.

Bournemouth 1 - 3 Derby County
(McKay 2, Hendrick)
MOTM - Jeff Hendrick

Good display from the lads today. Disappointed to concede but McKay is really proving to be a great signing and the win continues our recent excellent run of form.
View attachment 365235

Derby County 1 - 3 Blackburn Rovers
MOTM - Jeff Hendrick

Hendrick maintains his own good run of form, but we lose for the first time in the league. We had a shocking first half, 2-0 down, and conceded early on in the second. Only after Olsson was sent off did we manage to get a foothold in the game, and by then it was too late. We had more shots and more possession, but we couldn't make it count. Blackburn showed the clinical edge needed for a side challenging for the play offs - we didn't.
View attachment 365236

Derby County 1 - 0 Blackpool
MOTM - Jeff Hendrick

It wasn't pretty, but Will Hughes returns from international duty to earn us victory against the table's bottom side. I rested a lot of first team players so I'm glad to have the win, and Conor Sammon started and put in 66 minutes on his return to full fitness.

View attachment 365237
Derby County 0 - 1 Birmingham City
MOTM - Shaun Barker
It was a fairly even game, but we just didn't take our chances. Need to do better and get back to the consistency of last month. Another great performance from Shaun Barker though.
View attachment 365238

Doncaster Rovers 2 - 3 Derby County
(Grandin, Keogh, Russell)
MOTM - Richard Keogh

Pretty average performance on the whole to tell you the truth, but Johnny Russell came off the bench to bag a late, late winner. We conceded a couple of sloppy goals but hey, a win is a win.
View attachment 365239

Player Of
The Month

Got to be Jeff Hendrick - 2 goals and 3 MOTM awards earn him this. He's also broke into the top 5 players with the highest average rating in the entire Championship. Not bad for a 20 year old!

Overall, October's been a bit stop-start. When we've been good we've been great, but when we've when poor we've been dire. Need to shed the inconsistency if we want a play off spot. 3 wins and 2 defeats isn't terrible though, and we're still looking pretty in 5th.
View attachment 365234


We go into November in pretty good shape, but have a few tough fixtures coming up, including local rivals Nottingham Forest.

Wigan Athletic A
Brighton and Hove Albion A
Nottingham Forest H
Ipswich Town A
Queens Park Rangers H
Millwall A

Wigan Athletic 1 - 1 Derby County
MOTM - Shaun Barker

We really upset the odds in getting a point here. We played quite well really, defended well against a very good Wigan side. I would've taken a point before the game, and hopefully this will be the catalyst for another good run.
View attachment 365247

Brighton and Hove Albion 4 - 2 Derby County
(Russell 2, Grainger S/O)
MOTM - Johnny Russell

…Or not. 3-0 down after a horrific first half, we did exceptionally well to come back to 3-2 through two Russell strikes. We pushed hard for the equaliser but Grainger stupidly got himself sent off and we conceded a fourth right at the end. Grainger will probably be offloaded in January now, he's let me down one too many times. We need to try and get back to winning ways as soon as possible.
View attachment 365248

Derby County 1 - 1 Nottingham Forest
MOTM - John Brayford

Against the bitter rivals, we put in an okay performance. They had more shots but couldn't make it count, and Turnbull pulled off a couple of good saves. I would've taken a point but we're now winless in 3 and I'm keen to stop the rot sharpish. We haven't lost any ground on the play offs but a gap is definitely opening up between us and the automatics. McKay ended his mini drought and his goals are going to be vital if we're to regain some momentum.
View attachment 365249

Ipswich Town 0 - 2 Derby County
(Brayford, McKay)
MOTM - John Brayford

A good performance all round to get us back to winning ways. Brayford broke forward from full back following a good team move for a simple finish one on one, and then McKay converted a rebound after Hughes' long range effort cannoned off the crossbar. We were sound defensively, restricting Ipswich to just 2 efforts on target, and we regained our place in the play offs following our victory.
View attachment 365250

Derby County 1 - 1 Queens Park Rangers
MOTM - Paul Coutts

Pretty drab game to be honest. Ward crossed for Hughes to volley home just before half time, but we conceded early on in the second half and the game just petered out from there. Coutts was fantastic in the middle though, breaking up attacks, good use of the ball and aggressive in the tackle. The depressing news is that influential left winger Jamie Ward tore his calf muscle and will be missing for 4 months :( Russell will probably be moved over with Grandin appearing more down the right hand side to compensate.
View attachment 365251

Millwall 3 - 2 Derby County
(Grandin, Russell)
MOTM - Elliot Grandin

Absolutely furious with our defensive naivety, conceding 3 goals to the league's bottom team. It was a poor display overall, but I have to take the responsibility for putting in a couple of the back up players. Sammon still hasn't scored which is a concern, and today showed how much we really rely on Barker at the back. Our attacking play at times was quite good though, and on another day we could've scored more. 9 shots on target would suggest a good display from their keeper, and we'll play worse than that and win. The defensive display was poor though.
View attachment 365254

Player Of The Month

Johnny Russell scored a few goals this month, but I'll have to give the POTM award to full back John Brayford: Two MOTM awards and a series of fine, consistent displays at right back have cemented his position as my first choice.

Overall, we've lost ground this month. 1 win, 3 draws and 2 defeats is not play off form. We should've won a couple of the draws though, and then things wouldn't look so bad. We're still just a point off the play offs and I think we have the quality to turn it around. Losing Jamie Ward for 4 months is a big blow though, and with the loan window closing, I have to make do with the squad I have already.

View attachment 365242
Top Goalscorers

Billy McKay 11 (from 21)
Johnny Russell 5 (from 19)
Will Hughes 5 (from 20)
Elliot Grandin 3 (from 18)
Jeff Hendrick 2 (from 16)
Jamie Ward 2 (from 17)
Shaun Barker 2 (from 18)
Michael Jacobs 1 (from 14)
Craig Bryson 1 (from 17)
Richard Keogh 1 (from 10)
John Brayford 1 (from 18)

It's clear we rely on McKay a bit too much - really hope Sammon and Martin can start chipping in with a few here and there or else I may need to look at another striker in January - or give 16 year old Mason Bennett a run out!

As always, comments, advice etc is appreciated, cheers!
Can't wait for the next update! For me I was millwall and I signed sammon and he scored 22 of 37 games, so hopefully he shows some of that form for you mate.
Can't wait for the next update! For me I was millwall and I signed sammon and he scored 22 of 37 games, so hopefully he shows some of that form for you mate.

Next update will probably be out late tonight or tomorrow morning depending on how tired I get haha. I could definitely do with Sammon playing like he did for you, that's for sure!
Next update will probably be out late tonight or tomorrow morning depending on how tired I get haha. I could definitely do with Sammon playing like he did for you, that's for sure!

Performed like that for me in all honesty!
Give him a chance lone striker AF on attack with inside forwards banged them in for me!
Give him a chance lone striker AF on attack with inside forwards banged them in for me!

Maybe I'll give him one more chance to redeem himself...but I'm having a lot more success with McKay in the same role!

Busy month...need some wins if we want a play off spot!

Sheffield Wednesday H
Burnley H
Bolton Wanderers A
Middlesbrough A
Yeovil Town A
Leicester City H
Reading A

Derby County 2 - 2 Sheffield Wednesday
(Hughes, Jacobs)
MOTM - John Brayford

Okay performance. Central defenders were poor and the front 3 didn't have a great time. But a point is a point and we'll take that, although the longer our inconsistency continues the further away the play offs will get.
View attachment 365540

Derby County 2 - 1 Burnley
(Russell, Hughes)
MOTM - Shaun Barker

A much improved performance and a return to winning ways. Two first half goals set the game up well, and although we weren't great in the second period, we saw the game out. Coutts and Bryson were brilliant in the middle, both chipping in with an assist. McKay didn't have a great game up front though, really need Sammon to step up to the plate when McKay isn't firing.
View attachment 365541

Bolton Wanderers 2 - 2 Derby County
(Grandin, Sammon)
MOTM - Michael Jacobs

We didn't play all that well, but we twice came from behind late on to salvage a point with a 92nd minute goal! Feels more like a win than a draw to be honest! Conor Sammon FINALLY broke his duck for me with the all important equaliser. Man of the match Jacobs deserves a special mention with two wonderful assists for the goals. Great performance from him, just needs to add consistency to his game.
View attachment 365542

Middlesbrough 0 - 0 Derby County
MOTM - Danny Grainger

A point keeps our unbeaten run in December alive. Fairly average performance, really good defensively though. I bought Danny Grainger back in at left back for a final chance and he really seized it with a MOTM display. He and Keogh were excellent at the back. Sammon started up front but missed 2 really good chances. Just don't think he has enough composure for this level.
View attachment 365543

Johnny Russell twisted his ankle in training and will be missing for 4 weeks, which leaves us light in the wide areas going into the busy Christmas period.

Yeovil Town 1 - 1 Derby County
MOTM - Will Hughes
Really poor all round bar Hughes who scored a brilliant individual goal. Being outplayed by a side near the bottom just isn't good enough. We need to start beating these sides if we want to progress. McKay missed a penalty which didn't help, but that's no excuse for a truly dire display. Critical point of the season coming up, and we need to kick on.

View attachment 365544

Derby County 1 - 0 Leicester City
MOTM - Shaun Barker

Decent performance against a pretty dire Leicester side, it has to be said. Coutts whipped in a beauty of a free kick for Barker to head home in the first half and it was pretty comfortable from there on in. The win was more important than the performance in this one though.
View attachment 365545

Reading 0 - 3 Derby County
(McKay 3)
MOTM - Billy McKay
Where did that come from?! A brilliant performance to round off the month and McKay's first goals since November. Keeps the play off dream alive as we remain in 8th, level on points with Burnley in 6th. McKay even missed a penalty - but I'll forgive him after that hat trick! It takes his tally for the season up to a respectable 14 - I set him a target of 20, and he looks well on course to break that. Defensively we were excellent, Barker was once again outstanding, and Brayford played very well to keep the impressive Drenthe quiet. Great end to a decent month.
View attachment 365546

Player Of The Month

A few candidates here; Jacobs, Barker, McKay, but it's got to be youngster Will Hughes. 3 goals, a MOTM display and a couple of assists to boot, the youngster really stepped up to the plate in December to help us maintain our play off charge. He's improving all the time and it's scary to think he's still just 17!
Overall, December has been a good month for us. We should've really turned a few more of those draws into victories, but an unbeaten month is nothing to be sniffed at and we're well primed to give the play offs a real go in the new year. We've lost just 4 times all season - the lowest in the league - but 11 draws shows we have a problem at killing teams off. Another striker to help McKay out must be a priority in January.
View attachment 365530

Loan Watch

Thought I'd have a half time report on how my youngsters are doing out on loan!

Ross Atkins, GK. On loan at Alfreton - 32 games, 45 conceded, 9 clean sheets. Average Rating: 6.61.
Mats Morch, GK. On loan at Colchester - 6 games, 9 conceded, 1 clean sheet. Average Rating: 6.60.
Josh Lelan, CB. On loan at Coventry - 28 games, 1 goal. Average Rating: 6.80.
Tom Naylor, CB. On loan at Coventry - 31 games, 2 goals. Average Rating: 7.09.
Luke Adams, CB. On loan at York - 24 games, 0 goals. Average Rating: 6.29.
Michael Hoganson, LB. On loan at Fleetwood - 32 games, 1 goal. Average Rating: 6.79.
Conor Doyle, ST. On loan at Shrewsbury - 27 games, 6 goals. Average Rating: 6.43.
Callum Ball, ST. On loan at Sheffield United - 27 games, 9 goals. Average Rating: 6.80.

Naylor looks like League 1 is currently his level - whether he can progress to Championship level is debatable, but I'm hopeful. Lelan has done okay for a 17 year old, as has Hoganson, who recently won the League 2 YPOTM award for December! Ball has a half decent record, I'm hopeful he can improve and play a part next year.


If we can maintain our form for this month I fancy our chances of a play off spot!

Huddersfield Town H
Nottingham Forest H (FA Cup)
Watford H
Leeds United A
Charlton Athletic A
Queens Park Rangers H (FA Cup)

Derby County 1 - 1 Huddersfield Town
MOTM - John Brayford

Injuries were beginning to take their toll, and a lot of my squad were knackered after the Reading game, so they could be forgiven for being a little lacklustre. We got a point in the end, Chris Martin finishing late on after being played in by Conor Sammon for his first goal at the club. Not the best display but things will improve when players return to full fitness.

View attachment 365548

Derby County 3 - 0 Nottingham Forest - FA Cup Third Round
(McKay, Sammon, Hendrick)
MOTM - Jeff Hendrick
A late burst from the lads in the last 20 minutes saw off our bitter rivals in the third round of the FA cup. McKay scored first after good work from Michael Jacobs, who then played in substitute Conor Sammon for a second. Danny Grainger laid in Hendrick who stormed through a non existent Forest defence to smash home the third late on. A brilliant all round performance, with superb performances from Freeman, Gjokaj, O'Brien, Jacobs and Hendrick in particular.

View attachment 365549

Derby County 2 - 1 Watford
(Hughes, Keogh)
MOTM - Will Hughes
Fair play to the lads - they came from behind against a decent Watford side to extend our unbeaten run another game. Coutts was once again outstanding in the middle and Hughes was the best player on the park by a mile. God knows where I'd be without him. It sees me remain out of the play offs only by goals scored!

View attachment 365550

Leeds United 2 - 1 Derby County
MOTM - Will Hughes
All good runs have to end, but I'm disappointed in losing in that manner to the league's bottom club. We underestimated them and far too many of my team had become complacent following our recent good run. The lack of wide options is killing me - Russell and Ward are both injured while Grandin is at the ACON. Back to the drawing board…

View attachment 365551

Charlton Athletic 1 - 1 Derby County
MOTM - Shaun Barker
A decent point against a play off rival. Coutts was once again great in the middle, Barker excellent at the back. It was a decent point but I can't help but feel we really missed an opportunity with this one. Sammon came off the bench to the hit the post when he should've finished, but Johnny Russell managed 20 minutes on his return to the first team.

View attachment 365552

Derby County 2 - 2 Queens Park Rangers - FA Cup Fourth Round
(Russell, Jacobs)
MOTM - Michael Jacobs
Considering we were 2-0 up with less than 10 minutes left, I am fuming. We ought to have closed the game out but we gifted them two goals - one from a set piece and the other from terrible defensive play. The defending has got to improve. On a plus side though, Russell and Jacobs both scored and made one for the other in good displays. That was Russell's first start since his injury and he looked in good form.

View attachment 365553

Player Of The Month

Again, I'm stuck between Hughes and Jacobs - so this time I'll give it to the young winger. Michael Jacobs scored twice, with a MOTM display and several classy assists in a decent month for the winger in which he really stepped up to the plate as Jamie Ward's replacement. He's starting to show the sort of consistency needed to be a success at this level.
Overall, a bit of a hit and miss month. Defeat at relegation candidates Leeds was counterbalanced by a great win at promotion chasing Watford. We're outside the play offs by 3 points now and we really need a run.

View attachment 365535

January Transfers

I asked the board to make money available for transfers but they turned me down flat and I'm missing out on a lot of my targets as a result! I did make one new signing though, to arrive at the end of his contract: Hearts midfielder Scott Robinson. He's only 20, but has good mental and physical attributes. I'll probably send him out on loan for the first 6 months of the season to League 1 and then bring him back. I also had my eye on another scottish based player, St Mirren's Paul McGowan, but he didn't want to open negotiations for some reason. So it looks like no more signings!

View attachment 365554

As always, comments, feedback, advice etc, much appreciated! Cheers guys, hope you're enjoying it! :)
Last edited:
Deadline Day saw James O'Connor leave for League 1 Swindon Town for a fee of £100k. No where near his value, but he'd been on the transfer list nearly 4 months so I took the money and ran.


Derby County 2 - 0 Barnsley
(McKay 2)
MOTM - Billy McKay

A really good performance against automatic promotion contenders Barnsley. Defensively good and we were inventive in attack, with two good finishes from leading scorer Billy McKay. There was also a debut for 16 year old Mason Bennett down the right hand side - he can expect to be eased into the side from here on in.

View attachment 365704

Winger Michael Jacobs picked up a pulled hamstring in training and will be missing for 4 weeks :(

Billy McKay picks up a twisted ankle in training before the Blackburn game and will also be missing for 4 weeks, arghh!

Blackburn Rovers 2 - 1 Derby County
MOTM - Shaun Barker

We welcomed back Elliot Grandin from the ACON, and he went straight into the side to play the impressive league leaders. Unfortunately we didn't have a great start, going 2-0 down inside 20 minutes. Russell pulled one back with a great solo goal and we had another ruled out early in the second half (which should've stood, even the FA were quiet over my criticism!). I threw everyone forward, we had another goal ruled out for offside in the 86th minute but we just couldn't find the equaliser. Hard to fault the players for this one, we played well enough. More worrying was Grandin spraining his ankle on his return and being ruled out for 6 weeks, and Conor Sammon pulling up with a groin strain and missing 3 weeks. The injuries are starting to add up and I'm worried our season will fall apart…I told the board I needed new players, they didn't listen!

View attachment 365705

I tied up some contracts for Johnny Russell, John Brayford Valentin Gjokaj and Kieron Freeman too.

Queens Park Rangers 1 - 2 Derby County - FA Cup Fourth Round Replay
(Grainger, Barker)
MOTM - Shaun Barker

QPR's side is far too good for the championship. Far too good. We were absolutely battered the entire game, but got given a rather fortunate penalty which Grainger converted, after which they missed a penalty just minutes into the second half, and then Barker scrambled in from a corner just before the hour. Then we just rode our luck. Mbia pulled one back for them with 20 minutes to go, but thankfully we held out and we're into the fifth round against Reading!

View attachment 365706

Derby County 3 - 1 Reading - FA Cup Fifth Round
(Hughes, Martin, Russell)
MOTM - Shaun Barker

For some reason we really seem to like playing Reading. Another win and 3 goals is most welcome. Good midfield display from Ed Upson, who is starting to pay off his transfer fee, and a good performance from Chris Martin who grabbed a goal. Mason Bennett has broken into the team and doesn't look out of place either! Great stuff from him.

View attachment 365707

Derby County 1 - 0 Doncaster Rovers
MOTM - Kieron Freeman

Pretty average performance against the bottom side, but as we approach the business end of the season, it's results and not performances that matter, and we picked up all 3 points here. Freeman scored his first goal for the club early on and Doncaster didn't really cause us any problems. Johnny Russell picked up a groin strain though so he'll be out for 3 weeks! :(

View attachment 365708

Derby County 2 - 0 Bournemouth
(Martin 2)
MOTM - Chris Martin

Bournemouth didn't really make us work for the win in all honesty, they gave away two penalties that Chris Martin dispatched with consummate ease. I only really cared about the points to be honest and it's a good way to finish the month. Jacobs made his comeback from the bench off the bench and we've definitely missed him.

View attachment 365709

Player Of The Month

Lots of candidates, but it has to be Shaun Barker - excellent displays this month, and MOTM performances in 3 of his 4 appearances. So glad I wasn't tempted to sell him in the summer, because he's been nothing short of heroic for me!

Overall, a decent month. Progress in the FA Cup to the Sixth Round, where we'll play away to either Southampton or Sunderland, and 3 wins in 4 in the league. We still sit just outside the play offs and things are hotting up as we enter the final 12 games, but we're becoming crippled by injuries!

View attachment 365717


Blackpool 2 - 0 Derby County
MOTM - Valentin Gjokaj

Gjokaj aside, we were really awful. I underestimated how good Ince and Phillips are, and they ran us ragged. The injuries aren't helping me but we need to play better than that.

View attachment 365710

Birmingham City 0 - 3 Derby County
(Jacobs, Hughes, Coutts, Martin S/O)
MOTM - Will Hughes

A good display to return to winning ways. Hughes, Jacobs and Bennett terrorised their defence all game and Jacobs' goal was an exquisite chip, brilliant technique. Gjokaj is looking brilliant at centre half, and there were solid displays all round. Only mark on an otherwise spotless performance is Martin's red card - for two offences of diving. Absolutely furious with him, he'll be fined heavily. Mason Bennett suffered strained ankle ligaments in the game and will be missing for 4-5 weeks :( Conor Sammon replaced him for his first appearance since his injury, he needs to step up soon.

View attachment 365711

Sunderland 2 - 2 Derby County - FA Cup Quarter Finals
(Sammon, McKay)
MOTM - Will Hughes

A late equaliser from Billy McKay earns us a replay at Pride Park, and I'm optimistic about pulling off a cupset now! We took a premier league side the distance and Sammon delivered for me when I needed it most. Great result today.

View attachment 365712

Derby County 1 - 0 Wigan Athletic
MOTM - Richard Keogh

He's suddenly become a different player! Sammon scores again to earn us 3 points against a tough Wigan side which propels us back into the play offs. Jamie Ward and Johnny Russell both made long awaited comebacks, but Ward went off injured again shortly after creating the goal for Sammon, with a torn hamstring, so he's out for another 3 months. Unfortunately I think I'm going to have to cut my losses and let him leave at the end of the season, he's just no good to me if he's injured.

View attachment 365713

Derby County 2 - 3 Sunderland (A.E.T) - FA Cup Quarter Final Replay
(Sammon, Hughes)
MOTM - Conor Sammon

So gutted to have lost. We were as good, if not better, than them, and two of their goals came from our failure to clear our lines following a set piece. The quarter finals are a good achievement for us, but I can't help but feel it should've been a semi final place. Sammon was heroic up top and another goal continues his excellent recent run. If we play like this in the league we'll be promoted for sure, I'm just gutted we're not in the next round.

View attachment 365714

Nottingham Forest 0 - 1 Derby County
MOTM - John Brayford

The game was hardly a blockbuster, with possession constantly changing hands and misplaced passes commonplace, but we grabbed a goal midway through the second half and defending resolutely for another win against the bitter rivals. We're looking good for a play off spot now, especially with a game in hand!

View attachment 365715

Player Of The Month

I'll have to give it to Conor Sammon for proving me wrong and weighing in with some crucial goals and displays, including a MOTM display in the FA Cup Quarter Final Replay vs Sunderland. If he maintains this sort of form until the end of the season I may change my mind about selling him!

All in all, a very good month. We got off to a horrific start at Blackpool, but 3 wins in 3 after that atones for the Blackpool performance. Add in 2 combative displays against Sunderland in the cup and it's been a good month. Nearly at the end, just need to maintain this form!

View attachment 365716

Top Goalscorers

Billy McKay - 18
Will Hughes - 13
Johnny Russell - 9
Michael Jacobs - 6
Conor Sammon - 5
Elliot Grandin - 4
Chris Martin - 4
Shaun Barker - 4
Jeff Hendrick - 3
Jamie Ward - 2
Richard Keogh - 2
Kieron Freeman - 1
Paul Coutts - 1
Craig Bryson - 1
Danny Grainger - 1
John Brayford - 1

Youth Products

The newest batch of academy stars have come through, and there's some very promising youngsters there!
15 year old central midfielder Tommy Houghton looks like a future Derby captain - and is rated 5 stars potential. Will definitely have some game time next season!
Other potential stars include centre halfs Kallum Hackney, who's just 15 but a huge 6'7", and James Black, and central midfielder Gordon Davies.

View attachment 365718
View attachment 365719
View attachment 365720
View attachment 365721

Last edited: