Matchday Preview: Reading vs. Derby County
The final game of an ultimately disappointing season has arrived in the shape of a nothing-to-play-for 'showdown' with play-off bound Reading. At one stage of the season it seemed that The Rams were destined for a play-off berth at the very least, but a disastrous second half of the campaign has well and truly put paid to that.
From a seemingly nailed on sixth-plus finish, to 19th. That says it all.
The only thing Derby fans can hope for is sensible but significant summer investment. Without it, another battle against relegation looms; with it, we will finally see what Nigel Clough is made of and we will hopefully, finally, have a team capable of competing at the right end of the Championship table like Reading, today's opponents who have been on a sensational recent run of form.
Reading are surely the model we must follow. Smart lower league acquisitions and proven Championship quality, who are given time to gel and become a real team.
The noises coming out of Pride Park seem to suggest proven Championship players are on their way in, but whether some Derby fans will give Nigel Clough and the Derby board more time remains to be seen, especially after three dreadful seasons since the American investors took over.
Here's to a Derby win and a better season next time around...
Midfielder James Bailey told the DET that the team won't be defending in the last game of the season: 'Reading will be a tough game but we'll be going there for the three points - not for a draw or to sit back.'
Despite recently saying he might carry on for another season, Robbie Savage has finally accepted his appearance at Reading will be the last in his career as a professional: "To play 630 games is a massive achievement and I am very proud of that.
'When I come off the pitch today, I will be Robbie Savage the ex-footballer.
'I think it will be the moment that it will all sink in.'
The Royals Team News:
Brian McDermott says he will not be making any changes to his side before they appear in the play-offs, bar annoying star striker Shane Long.
Dangerous winger Jimmy Kebe will sit out with a thigh injury, but he could still be key in Reading's push for the Premier League.
Player to watch: Ian Harte
After it looked like his career was petering out following his departure from Leeds United, defender Harte has been in brilliant form for Carlisle United, and now Reading.
His ten goals this season have helped Reading secure a play-off place, and he may be set for another crack at the Premier League, after it looked so unlikely he would reach that level again.
He is a lethal set-piece taker.
The Rams Team News:
Derby boss Nigel Clough has indicated that three youngsters might get their first Rams start. Academy and reserve team hitman Calum Ball and midfielder Jeff Hendrick look likely to come into the side and blundering goalkeeper Brad Jones could be dropped for 21-year-old Ross Atkins.
If you've been living under a rock, you might not know that Robbie Savage will make his last Derby appearance.
Player to watch: Robbie Savage
Well, who else could it be?
Captain Sav is set to make his 631st and last career appearance against The Royals. Love him or hate him, it is hard to say that the former Leicester man hasn't done well to convince so many fans of his worth since his move to Pride Park.
Well over 100 appearances later, he has become a familiar name on the team sheet, and has turned around his Rams career since being sent out on loan to then League One Brighton & Hove Albion.
Supporters` views vary greatly on the midfielder; some believe his experience will be missed, some consider him ineffective, but whatever happens, it will be interesting to see how we fill the gap left by his retirement.
Match Facts & Stats
The Rams' last five:
Bristol City (h) 0-2
Norwich City (a) 2-3
Burnley (h) 2-4
Queens Park Rangers (a) 0-0
Leeds United (h) 2-1
The Royals' last five:
Coventry City (a) 0-0
Sheffield United (h) 2-3
Leeds United (a) 0-0
Leicester City (h 3-1
Scunthorpe United (a) 2-0
A long three months in the future...