Every club is allowed a poor season from time to time, one of those campaigns where everything goes awry, both on and off the pitch. It happens.
In 2007/08, having secured promotion to the top-flight against the odds via the play-offs, Billy Davies’ Derby County took that privilege and ran with it.
More accurately, a hopelessly under-invested, over-achieving side full of Championship players tried to run, but then promptly tripped up and landed square on their face.
In doing so, they broke all manner of records, none of which they can be especially proud of.
The Rams’ season to forget actually began in encouraging fashion, with an opening day draw at home to Portsmouth, but there followed one defeat after another, a weekly and seemingly never-ending cycle of heavy losses and plucky, narrow reverses that had them rock-bottom of the Premier League from August to May.
By the season’s end Derby had managed a single victory and accrued the fewest number of points before or since – a meagre 11.
They scored a joint-record low of 20 goals all term and conceded a decidedly porous 89, the most shipped in by any top-flight side.
They were, in short, a disaster from beginning to end.
It would be easy to highlight the players involved in this remarkably poor year that had County short-priced in the Premier League relegation odds just a few weeks in. It would be easy and very unfair.
Only five teams have conceded 20+ goals after seven games of a Premier League season:— Squawka (@Squawka) September 17, 2022
◉ 22 - Leicester (2022-23)
◎ 21 - Bolton (2011-12)
◎ 20 - Derby County (2007-08)
◎ 20 - Southampton (2012-13)
◎ 20 - Watford (2019-20)
We have a new record. 🙃 pic.twitter.com/e3YTg1aFrc
As previously stated, this was a team made up of Championship fare, whose summer business amounted to bargain buys and rejects, so to pin the blame on them is to shout at the inevitable.
After all, you don’t condemn a pub singer for failing to put on a show at Wembley. You find fault with the promoter, and so it is that we look behind the scenes and find chaos, confusion, and a catalogue of bad decisions.
That summer, the club’s owners were anticipating a takeover from a US investor so were reluctant to release much-needed funds in the transfer market.
When the takeover was finally completed in January it conversely led to a manic recruitment spree bringing in eight players, many of whom were on frees.
When a club brings in so much new personnel halfway through a season you really know they’re in trouble.
And boy were they in trouble. There have been some famous relegation survival stories in the Premier League’s short history but this was never going to be one of them. By March a beleaguered and bruised Derby were officially down.
The new ownership wasn’t the only change made throughout this term of turmoil. Billy Davies was replaced in the dug-out by Paul Jewell as Christmas approached.
The club’s Chief Executive Trevor Birch left in October. With so little continuity off the pitch how were they expected to find any on it?
Ultimately, that is to be Derby’s legacy. A lesson for other struggling clubs to learn from, on the importance of constancy. Sadly, it has rarely been paid any heed to since. What’s the betting it never will?
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*
FIRST PUBLISHED: 28th September 2022