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The East Midlands Rivalry - A 3 Way Battle For Local Pride

Sunday 31st July 2011
The Derby match. It's the first match you look for when the fixtures get announced ahead of the new season. It's your club's cup final that comes around twice a year. It's the bragging rights. It's the local pride. It's the game where you find lungs you didn't even know you had, as you belt out your clubs anthem as loud as you can. It means so much that it makes your hairs stand on end. It's the match that fans of other teams just don't understand. You're nervous and excited in anticipation leading up to kick off, and afterwards, it's either pure euphoria, or a heart breaking post-mortem.  To a football fan, the games against your local rivals mean everything.

Following the promotions of Swansea City and Norwich City, two fierce Derby matches of the Championship have now disappeared (South Wales Derby and East Anglian Derby). However, some still remain, including the South Coast Derby (Southampton and Portsmouth), as well as Yorkshire Derby matches including Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers. But one Derby that promises to be as fierce as ever is the East Midlands Derby, which again throws up an exciting 3 way battle for dominance in the region.
Looking at last season's performances by the three East Midlands teams; Nottingham Forest, Leicester City and Derby County, it was Forest who had the better season. The Reds finished 6th in the league after a strong finish of 4 consecutive wins (including one against Leicester) that took them into the final play-off spot. Unfortunately, their season ended quicker than they'd hoped after losing to Swansea City 3-1 on aggregate in the play-off semi-finals, their second play-off loss in as many seasons.

Leicester had a strong season following their poor start under newly appointed manager Paulo Sousa, who despite promises from the board that he was at the club for the long term, he was sacked after 3 months and just 1 win in 9, with the Foxes sitting bottom of the Championship. Sousa was replaced by former England Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, who guided Leicester to a 10th place finish, after flirting with the play offs. Foxes fans saw their team amass a 14 match unbeaten home run, but will expect more this season under the Swede.

 

For Derby County, their season followed that old footballing cliché, a game (or rather season) of two halves. Flying as high as 4th during November, they dropped down the table after a 14 match winless run (not including an FA Cup defeat to non-league Crawley Town), taking only 3 points from the possible 42 available. This abysmal run of form left Derby floating above the relegation zone for the remainder of the season, as they eventually finishing in the season in 19th, 7 points clear of the bottom 3.

 

In terms of head to heads, Forest and Leicester both won 3 and lost 1 game against their East Midland rivals, with Derby County losing all 4 Derby games last season. Forest top the table on goals scored.

 

A Head to Head league table for the East Midlands Clubs

 

Forest v Derby

29th December 2010        Nottingham Forest 5 – 2 Derby County

22nd January 2011             Derby County 0 – 1 Nottingham Forest

 Former Rams Marcus Tudgay and Robert Earnshaw bagged 5 goals between them during the two games, coming back to haunt their former employers with brilliant performances. Tudgay netted with two headers on only his second City Ground appearance, while Earnshaw coolly slotted all 3 in with his right foot. The highlight of Earnshaw's goals came at Pride Park, scoring the winner with a fantastic first time drive from 25 yards, into the corner of the Derby net. It wouldn't be a Derby game without a bit of commotion as Earnshaw conducted the orchestra of Forest fans in the away end. As you might expect, there were a few rash challenges, most notably from Dean Moxey late on at Pride Park, earning himself a second yellow card. Derby Captain and pantomime villain Robbie Savage didn't disappoint either. He had been booked and was subbed early in the second half, throwing his boots to the ground in frustration as he sat in the dugout, as well as exchanging words with Nigel Clough.

Nathan Tyson has now crossed the divide to join Derby after leaving Forest on a free. The striker-cum-winger's pace was devastating in both matches, as he provided 2 assists and his switch down the A52 will add extra spice to next seasons clashes. Another player to cross the divide is Kris Commons, who hasn't been able to keep quiet in the Derby games, and he was on the score sheet at The City Ground with a low driven free kick, but proved to be nothing more than a consolation goal.
Forest v Leicester

 29th November 2010       Leicester City 1 – 0 Nottingham Forest

22nd April 2011                   Nottingham Forest 3 – 2 Leicester City

Leicester City and Forest were both winners on their own grounds when the two teams met last season. In the meeting at the then Walkers Stadium, Leicester claimed a 1-0 win, courtesy of an Andy King goal. Nottingham Forest were lethargic and apart from a great clearance off the line by Luke Chambers, there wasn't much to shout about. However, it was a different story at The City Ground, as a frantic game finished 3-2, firing Forest on the brink of the top six, and all but killing off Leicester's faint hopes of sneaking a play-off spot. Marcus Tudgay opened the scoring with a great low header after a pinpoint Lewis McGugan cross, but Leicester equalised through a well struck shot from Matt Oakley. Forest would however take the lead again, when Robert Earnshaw pounced on a fumble from Chris Weale to side foot coolly home. But Forest's concentration levels slipped as City equalised just moments later through Darius Vassell. Yet Forest would take the lead in the match for the third time through a tame Paul McKenna volley, which trickled under Chris Weale, which would prove to be the match winner.
Leicester v Derby

13th November 2010       Leicester City 2 – 0 Derby County

12th February 2011           Derby County 0 – 2 Leicester City

Leicester ran away 2-0 winners in both games against rivals Derby, condemning them to their fourth defeat of the season against their Midland rivals. Despite being in a good run of form, Derby were to leave empty handed from The Walkers Stadium, thanks to goals from Andy King and Derby old boy Steve Howard, who converted from the penalty spot following Kris Commons' challenge on Leicester full back Kyle Naughton. At Pride Park it was a similar story, with Andy King again getting on the score sheet; his third goal in East Midland Derby's last season. However, it was the game's opening goal that would prove most memorable, as Yakubu held off Derby defender Shaun Barker to keep the ball aloft keepy-uppy style with his thigh, before blasting home a spectacular volley.
Below is a graph, showing the three teams positions throughout the season, clearly showing the peaks and troughs of the clubs form from August until May.
 

So, what can we expect from the three teams this year? On paper at least, it appears Derby still lag behind Forest and Leicester. They have certainly strengthened their squad since the end of the season, having turned Theo Robinson's, Frankie Fielding's and Jamie Ward's loan deals into permanent ones, as well as bringing in Jason Shackell (Barnsley) and Nathan Tyson (Nottingham Forest). They've also recruited from Scotland, having signed Craig Bryson from Kilmarnock and Chris Maguire from Aberdeen. In the second half of the season, Derby desperately missed Kris Commons, who was the catalyst behind their early season form, before he departed for Celtic. If someone can step up to the mark and provide the creativity he did, they will be in much better shape.

Everyone in English football is aware of what Leicester have been doing in the transfer market. They have been spending big, and bringing in a wealth of talent. Sven has made nearly 10 summer signings so far, including Matt Mills from Reading (who cost around £5.5million), Paul Konchesky from Liverpool (£1.5million) and Kasper Schmeichel (£1.5million). They have also brought in some great free transfers including Neil Danns (Crystal Palace), David Nugent (Portsmouth) and John Pantsil (Fulham) as well as Michael Johnson (Manchester City) on a loan deal. There is also talk of Andros Townsend and even Robbie Keane (both Tottenham Hotspur) joining on loan, as was as Gelson Fernandes (Saint. Etienne), a deal that is now completed. As well as shelling out around £10million in transfer fees, the Leicester wage bill is extremely high, with some players' wages being touted at around £25,000 - £30,000 per week, plus bonuses if the club get promoted. For the clubs sake, they need to. This tactic of ‘buying their way to promotion' is a dangerous game and could backfire on them if the team don't gel. Spending big in this division doesn't always work, as shown by Middlesborough last season (who, granted spent less on players unproven in England). One thing is certain, Leicester need to get players out the door to recoup some costs. Sven faces two choices next year; one being to rotate his squad to keep everyone happy, but risk losing momentum and form, or stick with a set starting 11 and risk having not only well paid players, but unhappy players that are eating up wages being sat on the bench. In terms of the fans expectations, and im sure all staff's, nothing short of promotion is acceptable.

Forest's dealings in the transfer market have been slow, something I have looked into on a previous blog on Its Round and Its White. The three bits of business done so far by McClaren (Andy Reid, Jonathan Greening and George Boateng), for a fee totalling just £600,000, seem to be very canny deals, with all 3 having a good pre-season. However, Forest are still in need of centre back cover (which may be solved by signing Anthony Gardner), a pacey winger with an end product, a consistent goal scoring striker, who can net 15 or 20 goals a season and last but not least, they need to solve that left back problem, that has bothered the Reds for at least 3 seasons. Whether deals arrive remain to be seen, but names like Wesley Verhoek, Nicky Maynard, Stuart Parnaby and Tsepo Masilela are still being mentioned and linked with a move Trent side. Forest have not kept up with the spending of the leagues early front runners, but with the main core of the squad that has reached consecutive play-off semi -finals, Forest will be in the hunt for promotion yet again.

So how do the Bookmakers see the season panning out for the three East Midlands teams?
Looking at the above odds, the bookies clearly fancy Leicester, but Forest are still in with a good chance of competing. As for Derby, well the play offs may be a step too far for them this season, in a very competitive division, but they will hope to push towards midtable.

Now, for the all important odds. The top Midlands club:
 My tip for next season, as the clubs squads currently stand:

Leicester City : 2nd

Nottingham Forest : 6th

Derby County : 13th

One thing is certain, the East Midlands Derby games will prove as tasty, important and fierce as ever. And thats just the way us fans like it!

Written by James Bolton

Follow me on Twitter - @Bolton0301
James Bolton

Total articles: 29

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