Is it just me or is there something strange in the air? After ten months of possibly the most soul destroying football season ever witnessed, including some moments that would have many a Derby fan in tears of laughter if it wasn't for the fact it was our club making the mistakes, you'd think no-one in these parts would be interested in the new football season let alone watching the not quite so Mighty Rams.
Yet we are told that the club have now sold more season tickets this summer than in the summer preceding our oh so inglorious stint in the 'promised land'. With only the recent pre-season victory against our local non-league rivals Burton Albion showing in Paul Jewell's victory column since his appointment in November last year (and no, penalty shoot-outs don't count), my non-Derby supporting friends cannot understand my sense of anticipation for the new season, let's be honest when was the last time you genuinely looked forward to a trip to Pride Park?
Let's not get carried away here, an opening day fixture against Doncaster Rovers is hardly the kind of thing to get the pulse racing but the fact that we're going into the season with a reasonable chance of using the w word more then once before Christmas (and I mean win, we're not talking Robbie Savage here), and the chance to beat our local rivals from along the A52 again surely this must be something to look forward to.
The recruitment of players over the summer began very early and so far with nine in and ten and counting out or on their way out of the door Paul Jewell obviously wasn't joking when he said major changes were in the offing in the summer. Normally this amount of chopping and changing could be unsettling and with almost no continuity from last season's side would this be a good thing for any club? The thing you have to take into consideration is exactly what did happen last season, how many of those players simply weren't good enough and how many of the few who were came out of the season unscathed psychologically? Whilst some of the players let go undoubtedly have the talent to make in the top half of the Championship or even the Premiership how many have the application and have actually produced for Derby? Stephen Pearson looked like he could hack it but, Wembley aside, has he ever really produced after the early promise he showed and don't get me started on Kenny Miller!
On the incoming side we appear to have signed a few players with the potential to push us to right end of the table and beyond but too much potential can be a dangerous thing (Giles Barnes anyone?), on the whole though I'm impressed with players being brought in. An early tip for player of the season for me would be Martin Albrechtsen, exactly the type of strong, quick central defender we need to build around at the back.
So, with less than a month until the start of the new season things are looking brighter than they have for a long time, I'm not getting carried away and guaranteeing promotion but a top half finish would be a good building block as long as the dreaded three year plan (copyright Billy Davies) isn't wheeled out again. Having said that don't remind me of that if we just miss out on the play-offs on the last day of the season!
Come on you Rams.
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