'Ooh great', thought Early Doors yesterday, 'Derby
are playing. Haven't had a chance to
rip it out of them for a while.'
What's more, they
were playing Manchester United - a certain defeat and a chance to pour cold
water all over the Nigel Clough era.
And what happened? They only went and won. Easily too.
United's best chances came in the
form of Cristiano Ronaldo free-kicks, which were duly whacked straight over the
free-kicks are now so bad they may soon start to have the precise opposite
effect of Rory Delap's long throws.
While teams have started conceding corners rather than face
a Delap throw-in, they may now start deliberately fouling United players on the
edge of the box, safe in the knowledge that they are almost certain to win a
The worst thing that can happen is that somebody ends up
with a concave face if Ronaldo shoots into the wall.
United never looked like scoring, despite playing against a
side that narrowly beat non-league opponents 4-3 in the Cup on Saturday.
Four days earlier they conceded three goals against Forest
Green Rovers, and yet here they were repelling the champions of England, Europe,
the world and probably parts of other galaxies too.
Maybe it was that United fielded a 'weakened' team featuring Tevez, Scholes, Vidic and Anderson,
with Ronaldo, Rooney and Carrick coming off the bench.
Or maybe it was the difference in managerial ability between
Chris Hutchings - who presided over the Forest Green near-debacle - and nobody.
Clough sat in the stands having been given the 'watching brief'
that is increasingly fashionable for new managers.
New Nottingham Forest boss Billy Davies did something similar in the
FA Cup on Saturday and saw his team thrash Manchester City
Although the watching brief is meant to help managers settle
into their job, all it really seems to do it exhibit the utter pointlessness of
the profession - the way to seal an unlikely and famous victory is to make sure
the gaffer comes nowhere near the dressing room.
So, what does Early Doors have against Derby? Nothing really, except that Pride Park
is the only football ground it has been to that has a Starbucks in it.
Despite that nod to early-noughties consumerism, all the Frappuccinos
cannot disguise the unpleasantness of the location - an industrial estate sandwiched
between a railway line and a water treatment facility on the outskirts of town.
Incidentally, Atletico Madrid's
Vicente Calderon stadium encompasses a car showroom - possibly to help the club
drive their manager to the dole office every three months.
Either that or it was a dodgy sideline set up by the late,
lamented Jesus Gil to flog the sports cars of his unwitting players during
Anyway, Early Doors doesn't
mind Derby - it
just can't help but be massively
cynical about the Nigel Clough hype.
Clough Jr cannot possibly be a success, simply because of
the weight of family history weighing on him.
Anything short of promotion within 18 months, European
qualification within 5 years and global domination inside a decade will be
deemed a failure.
Ask Jordi Cruyff how easy it is to follow in the footsteps
of a famous father. Mind you, Jordi Cruyff was rubbish.
Later this month Clough takes on Forest
in the FA Cup - the team that named a stand after his dad.
The Cloughs are in the unlikely position of being revered by
fans of both Derby and Nottingham Forest,
despite the surprisingly hostile rivalry between the two clubs.
Brian Clough is loved by Forest
fans for leading the team to a league title and two European Cups; Nigel Clough
is loved because he scored a few goals, but mainly because his dad led the team
to a league title and two European Cups.
And that is his problem. He will be forever in his father's shadow, and has no hope of emulating him, even if
he puts on a green jumper, starts drinking too much and calls everybody 'young man'.
- - -
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It was Chelsea's fault. Real Madrid
did not want me to go there, but Chelsea
did not help themselves. Everything would have gone ahead but they put that
picture of me on the website and Madrid were
very upset," Robinho confirms what everybody knows - it's Peter Kenyon's
fault he didn't sign for Chelsea.
FOREIGN VIEW: Gazzetta dello Sport must have been watching Ronaldo at Pride Park
last night. They ask who is the player of the decade - Kaka or Lionel Messi?