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All eyes on a new owner with Derby now requiring snookers - Interview
Sunday, 17th Apr 2022 10:26 by Clive Whittingham

Derby County have made a way better fist of their Championship season than really should have been remotely possible given everything the team had stacked against it, but as they prepare to drop into League One regardless it's all about the takeover of American tech millionaire Chris Kirchner. Ollie Wright is our regular contributor from Pride Park...

On the pitch

How would you assess the team's performance, given everything it had going against it?

I think nearly everybody expected Derby to be mathematically down long before now, but our defiant home form and performances have, in the main, been genuinely uplifting. On points per game, Derby are equal fourth in the home table and no club has lost fewer games at home. However, in away games, the team have been exactly as uncompetitive as it was assumed they would be, given the imposition of a transfer embargo and wage cap (£4.5k per week).

Derby league results so far…
Derby 1-1 Huddersfield Davies 39 – Sarr 45
Peterborough 2-1 Derby Dembele 90, Burrows 90 – Stretton 77
Hull 0-1 Derby Baldock 57
Derby 0-0 Middlesbrough
Derby 1-1 Forest Lawrence 11 – Johnson 82
Birmingham 2-0 Derby Hogan 31, Bela 81
West Brom 0-0 Derby
Derby 2-1 Stoke Bird 31, Davies 34 – Ince 58
Sheff Utd 1-0 Derby Sharp pen 89
Derby 1-0 Reading Forsyth 33
Derby 0-0 Swansea
Preston 0-0 Derby
Derby 2-2 Luton Lawrence 20, Knight 60 – Onyedinma 48, Adebayo 83
Coventry 1-1 Derby Godden pen 20 – Shinnie 78
Derby 1-2 Blackburn Davies 89 – Brereton 8, 20
Barnsley 2-1 Derby Adeboyejo 39, Iseko 50 – Baldock 24
Millwall 1-1 Derby Malone 45 – Ebosele 44
Derby 3-2 Bournemouth Knight 13, Lawrence 62, pen 69 – Anthony 19, Solanke 38
Fulham 0-0 Derby
Derby 1-2 QPR Lawrence 10 – Willock 50, Gray 90
Bristol City 1-0 Derby Scott 16
Derby 1-0 Blackpool Plange 51
Derby 1-0 West Brom Kazim-Richards 58
Stoke 1-2 Derby Ince 78 – Plange 16, Kazim-Richards 85
Reading 2-2 Derby Hoilett 37, 56 – Kazim-Richards 86, 90
Derby 2-0 Sheff Utd Lawrence 69, 78
Forest 2-1 Derby Grabban 48, Johnson 82 – Lawrence pen 88
Derby 2-2 Birmingham Plange 87, Bielik 90 – Taylor 7, Hogan 56
Huddersfield 2-0 Derby Holmes 75, Rhodes 79
Derby 3-1 Hull Forsyth 19, Lawrence 37, Ebosele 47 – Forsyth og 65
Boro 4-1 Derby Buchanan og 15, Connolly 44, Crooks 45, Watmore 89 – Bird 39
Derby 1-0 Peterborough Sibley 90
Derby 1-2 Millwall Cooper og 88 – Wallace 2, Burey 30
Luton 1-0 Derby Hylton 67
Cardiff 1-0 Derby Ikpeazu 85
Derby 2-0 Barnsley Morrison 22, 47
Bournemouth 2-0 Derby Solanke 45, Lowe 90
Blackburn 3-1 Derby Wharton 53, Dolan 59, Gallagher 90 – Morrison 28
Derby 1-1 Coventry Lawrence pen 67 – Godden 28
Derby 1-0 Preston Morrison 80
Swansea 2-1 Derby Piroe 8, 16 – Lawrence pen 22
Derby 2-1 Fulham Plange 50, Adarabioyo og 73 – Carvalho 20

At one point I thought you were sure to get out of it and reel Reading in, but form has dropped, particularly away from home. Is that just a small squad hitting the wall? More to it than that?

A small and extremely young squad hitting the wall, without doubt. The fundamental problem has been an inability to create enough chances and so, while the defensive record has been OK overall and gave us a chance of getting out of it, ultimately, we haven't scored enough goals to overcome the 21-point deduction. Reading have been really poor, but after a recent revival in which they picked up eleven points in six games, it looks like they will not end up being quite bad enough to save us.

Player of the season candidates?

Curtis Davies is the only genuine candidate. I say that having polled fans recently and seen Davies gain more than 80% of the vote. The reasons for that landslide victory are multiple. Having turned 37 years old this month, he's nevertheless played every minute of every game and his standards of performance have been generally heroic. He's always been immensely professional and has everyone's respect, both as a player and as a man. Although Tom Lawrence wears the armband, Davies is obviously the leader of the squad and, had his partnership at the back with Phil Jagielka been allowed to continue past January, I genuinely believe we would have picked up enough additional points to leave Reading feeling extremely nervous at this stage.

A few votes will go to Lawrence, who has scored 11 goals. Others who will gain a few shouts are goalkeeper Ryan Allsop, who managed to replace the haphazard Kelle Roos; Nathan Byrne, who has become a fan-favourite as an attacking right back and 21 year-old Max Bird, who stepped up when we needed him to, becoming an automatic pick in midfield. The really interesting vote will be for this season's Young Player of the Year, given the emergence of an impressive range of academy talents to first-team prominence.

Weak links in the team?

Centre forward was the one position we really couldn't fill from the academy. Going into the season without being able to reinforce significantly, we were overly reliant on Colin Kazim-Richards, who suffered two serious injuries during the season and hence had a very limited impact. Sam Baldock was eventually signed on a short-term contract, but couldn't stay fit either and was released in January. Ex-Arsenal trainee Luke Plange has stepped up well, doing enough to convince Crystal Palace to spend £1m on him in January, but the 19 year-old's goal against Fulham was his first since the end of that month. At times, Tom Lawrence or even Ravel Morrison were press-ganged into service as false nines. Without a reliable senior striker to call upon, it's unsurprising that we have been among the division's lowest scorers.

What does next season look like in League One? What kind of team can be put together? Rooney sticking around?

Prospective owner Chris Kirchner, who likes a tweet (to put it mildly), has stated that Rooney will stay, so I assume there must be some way of making that work financially. In terms of what sort of team can be put together, that will involve an awful lot of free transfers and as many loans as we can muster, because it's going to be a bulk-buy scenario. It will be exciting, in the sense that there will have to be a huge amount of new signings, but it will also be chaotic and the chances of an entirely new squad, let alone team, magically gelling into a functioning unit quickly are not high. So, next season is going to be the start of a very long road back and expecting too much too soon would be foolish. Keeping Rooney on board to ensure at least some sort of stability and continuity would be a massive boost.

Summer Ins >>> Sam Baldock, 32, CF, Reading, Free >>> Ravel Morrison, 28, AM, Unattached, Free >>> Ryan Allsop, 29, GK, Wycombe, Free >>> Richard Stearman, 33, CB, Huddersfield, Free >>> Phil Jagielka, 39, CB, Sheff Utd, Free

Summer Outs >>> Scott Malone, 30, LB, Millwall, Free >>> Martyn Waghorn, 31, CF, Coventry, Free >>> Scott Carson, 35, GK, Man City, Free >>> Jack Marriott, 26, CF, Peterborough, Free >>> Henrich Ravas, 26, GK, Senica, Free >>> Florian Jozefzoon, 30, RW, Released >>> Jonathan Mitchell, 26, GK, Released >>> Jordan Ibe, 25, RW, Released >>> Andre Wisdom, 28, RB, Released >>> Emmanuel Idem, 22, GK, Released

Winter Ins >>> Luke Plange, 19, CF, Palace, Loaned back

Winter Outs >>> Kamil Jozwiak, 23, LW, Charlotte, £2.1m >>> Luke Plange, 19, CF, Palace, £1m >>> Graeme Shinnie, 30, DM, Wigan, £32k >>> Phil Jagielka, 39, CB, Stoke, Free >>> David Marshall, 36, GK, QPR, Free >>> Dylan Williams, 18, LB, Chelsea, Undisclosed >>> Sam Baldock, 32, CF, Released

Off the pitch?

What's the latest?

American tech entrepreneur Chris Kirchner is the preferred bidder and will now, we hope, put together a deal to rescue the club. He has apparently already shown proof of funds to the EFL during a failed bid in December, so we can only that the process will be expedited and the takeover goes through as soon as possible.

Reservations?

He's only 34 and has previously tweeted all sorts of immature, offensive crap, which certainly raised red flags. Having deleted his original account to expunge a record of sexist, homophobic and transphobic remarks, he continues to tweet prolifically. It could well be that he is using social media to make crowd-pleasing promises that he will not be able to keep further down the line. And, if he does become our owner, there's always the fear that he will be driven to distraction by the sheer number of moaning tweets he will receive every time we lose.

More importantly, people have been wondering where the money comes from, as his logistics firm, Slync, is not big enough on its own to be a convincing source of wealth to make a costly and, let's face it, risky acquisition like this possible. Kirchner has tweeted that his cash comes from successful investments, particularly in crypto-currency. We will have to see, but at least he does have a genuine profile in business and isn't trying to purchase Derby with magic beans / NFTs.

Further points deductions to come next season?

Yes, if the deal does not repay creditors at least 25% of their outstanding debts. However, a recent report from Alan Nixon (who has been pretty well informed throughout this saga) indicated that Kirchner is contemplating making an offer that would see creditors receive 35p in the pound over a three-year period, hence avoiding a points penalty. Kirchner has tweeted that he would like to see the club aim to win League 1 next season, but also seems to understand that starting on -15 points would make that impossible. It's on him to do the deal now and avoid that.

Club to be reunited with its ground? Mel Morris still casting a long shadow?

The development which brought Kirchner back to the table was the involvement of Derby City Council in a potential stadium deal. It seems now that Pride Park will at least temporarily be purchased by the city, in order to safeguard the future of its football club. Kirchner could then either lease it, or buy it back to reunite club and ground. So long as that deal can be done, hopefully, we will never hear from Morris again.

At points in this admin period the actual ongoing existence of the club seems to have been under question, is that still the case? Any more secure now a preferred buyer is named?

Kirchner now has the opportunity to rescue Derby. If he fails, we know that there is no obvious path to survival into the new season, unless another interested party, like Mike Ashley or former chairman Andy Appleby, could put a package together in time. Kirchner certainly talks the talk, so now we just have to hope he has the means and competence to back up his words.

Links >>> Official Website >>> Derby Telegraph – Local Press >>> Derby County Blog – Contributor’s blog >>> DCFCFans – Forum

The Twitter @loftforwords, @DerbyCountyBlog

Pictures – Action Images

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OldPedro added 11:29 - Apr 17
I hope that the club survive as most clubs are one bad owner away from this type of situation but would be interested to see how the city council could justify spending £80mil on buying the stadium from Morris in the current financial climate?
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loftboy added 11:44 - Apr 17
Small point of order to overtake Reading then it’s a 14 point deduction not 21
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NewBee added 20:35 - Apr 17
@OldPedro:
"would be interested to see how the city council could justify spending £80mil on buying the stadium from Morris"
That £80m only came from MM's imagination i.e. by "buying it" for that sum from DCFC, that sum went onto the club's books to help it avoid FFP.
Meaning it's worth nothing like that in the real world.
Meanwhile, MM is said to have borrowed £20m on hefty interest rates from Michael Dell (he of computer wealth) to finance this.
Meaning that he probably needs this sum at least to get him off the hook, but can't ask any more, if the Council are the only buyer.
P.S. Dell has lent money at high interest rates to a number of football club owners, including eg the Yanks who bought Burnley.
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