Writer: Peter Simcox
Date:Monday January 22 2007
Where have all the keepers gone at Derby?
The Rams victory at Southend on Saturday, which moved them to the top of the table, came again without a goalkeeper on the bench. The decision by Rams coach Billy Davies not to have a keeper on the bench is somewhat surprising, unless he believes there is an on-field player who can do the job in an emergency?
He also did this in his spell managing Preston North End, but who are we to argue with the man. He has done a marvelous job at Pride Park and long may it continue, my concern is if the keeper is injured after five minutes and we have no one on the bench to replace him, we might struggle.
Number one at present for Derby is Stephen Bywater. The 25-year-old joined the Rams on a permanent deal from West Ham United last year for a fee of around £225,000, this after an initial two week loan spell at Pride Park. Bywater is happy at the club and he says Derby County's team spirit is similar to that he experienced with West Ham`s promotion-winning side. He helped the Hammers reach the Premiership in the 2004-05 season, and Bywater said dressing-room morale brought the Hammers success and believes the Rams have found the key ingredient earlier in the season.
He said: "The lads get on with each other so well.
'Off the pitch, we all do things together and it really helps generate a good team spirit.
'I had the same at West Ham, in the season we got promoted. Towards the last few months of that season, we had good team spirit and the games just rolled on by. When it's like that, you seem to just not lose - we've got that already at Derby.
'Team spirit is crucial because it means you'll put the work in for your team-mates on the pitch and means you're playing for each other.'
The forgotten pair at Derby is Lee Grant and Lee Camp, both struggling for match time, with Bywater in such good form, but the question is, do they hang around and fight for a spot or look else where? Lee Grant looks set to stay at Derby County until the end of the season unless a 'very good' offer comes in for the former England Under-21 goalkeeper according to the Rams boss.
He has made 74 appearances for the Rams and has had spells out on loan at Oldham Athletic and Burnley.
His contract expires in the summer and as yet he hasn`t put pen to paper on a new deal. But Rams manager Davies is keen to keep two senior keepers on the staff.
He said: "Granty wants to go and play first-team football and tells me it has got nothing to do with financial matters.
'If somebody comes in with a very good offer for him then of course we would have to look at it but he is an important part of the squad between now and the end of the season unless something changes.
'I have explained this to him and he is a good pro. He understands and is getting on with the job.
'As far as I am concerned, he is the number two goalkeeper at the club and could play a big part because we need that back-up.
'It is important we have two very good keepers because I expect something to happen with Campy (Lee Camp) and that would leave us with Stephen Bywater and Granty.'
Grant, 23, had a run of six consecutive starts for the Rams earlier this season but has not played since losing his place to Bywater after the home defeat by Birmingham City in October.
Derby County and his agent have dismissed a report saying the goalkeeper had turned down the offer of a new contract, but he is one of a number of Rams players out of contract in the summer.
His agent, Gino Culbertson, said: 'Derby has made an offer to Lee and he is giving it serious consideration because this is an important time in his career.
'We are very annoyed because Lee has not made his decision, so how anybody can say he has turned it down is ludicrous. When he does make a decision, the first people we will advise are manager Billy Davies and the club.'
The other out-of-favour keeper is Lee Camp, who is expected to find a new club during the transfer window. Camp was loaned out to fellow Championship club Norwich City this season and impressed there and the East Anglian club has expressed an interest in signing him in January or taking him on loan to the end of the season. He made his first Norwich City full debut against Leicester City, and is keen to continue his career there or somewhere else. He played 88 games for the Rams, and has had loan periods at Conference side Burton Albion, playing five games in 2003 and QPR, playing 12 games in 2004.
The England Under-21 international has fallen behind Bywater and Grant in the pecking order at Derby and his future appears to lie away from Pride Park.
Norwich boss Peter Grant is keen to sign Camp when the transfer window opens.
"Lee's worked hard in training, he's good round the boys and maybe he's thinking that this is a great place to play,' said Grant, who took charge when Nigel Worthington was sacked in October.
'It's an opportunity for him and I thought Lee played well while at the club.
'A move is definitely something we would look at in the window but it also depends what Derby say and what Lee wants to do.
'One possibility would be to take him on loan to the end of the season. That may suit him better but he's certainly a lot happier than when I came in.'
But saying that we do have three quality goalkeepers and in my opinion, right or wrong, we should have a reserve keeper on the bench, to cover all options. That`s Davies` call but with the run in to the Premiership I`d think we should look at a keeper on the bench Billy, don`t you?
Date:Monday January 22 2007
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