Derby will be tough test

Derby County will arrive at The Valley on Saturday under new ownership, new management and with an almost entirely new team.

Local property developer and lifelong fan David Clowes ended the club's nine months in administration by completing his purchase at the start of July after the proposed take-over by American Chris Kirchner collapsed. In contrast to Thomas Sandgaard, Clowes has adopted an understated tone:

“I won't be making any extravagant promises. However I can confirm my intentions. My focus now is to stabilise the football club in every department and to make sure we have the foundations in place for success, however long that takes.”

The collapse of the Kirchner deal led to Wayne Rooney quitting, saying that "the club now needs to be led by someone with fresh energy and not affected by events that have happened over the last 18 months." Clowes quickly replaced Rooney, albeit on an interim basis, with former assistant manager Liam Rosenior.

With the transfer embargo partially lifted, Rosenior wasted no time adding eleven new signings to the squad of five he inherited. He will have plenty of players with Championship experience at his disposal on Saturday - James Collins (Luton); James Chester (Stoke); Conor Hourihane (Sheffield United & Swansea); Tom Barkhuizen (Preston); David McGoldrick (Sheffield United) and Korey Smith (Swansea) have all competed at Championship level in recent years. In addition he has recruited twenty year old defender Haydon Roberts on loan from Brighton and goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith from Sheffield Wednesday. However, we won't be seeing Krystian Bielik who has joined Birmingham on loan for the season.

Derby's last visit to The Valley was on 19th October 2019 when a crowd of 19,408 saw them beaten 3-0 by goals from Macauley Bonne, Naby Sarr and THAT GOAL from 25 yards by Conor Gallagher. The three points moved us up to seventh place in The Championship, only missing the play-off spots by goal difference. Lee Bowyer tried to warn us against getting too excited but, as we celebrated raucously after the game, few Charlton supporters believed that everything thereafter would follow a downward spiral. It was twelve games before we won again, by which time we had dropped to seventeenth. Gallagher left; Covid 19 arrived; Taylor refused to play, and we were relegated because Brentford conceded a last ditch goal to Barnsley. As we now kick off our third season in League One, it is hard to think of much that has offered  inspiration on the pitch, apart from some brief excitement under Nigel Adkins at the end of the 2020/21 season.

After their opening day 1-0 win over Oxford, the Rams are predicted by the bookmakers to be challenging Ipswich for the second automatic promotion place behind Sheffield Wednesday this season. In contrast, Charlton are now expected to finish twelfth. Saturday's game will without doubt be a hard battle for The Addicks who can boast only three players with any substantial Championship experience - Sessegnon, Stockley and McGrandles. It will be fascinating to see whether Ben Garner can organise his League One and Two recruits into a cohesive force that can hold its own. A draw would not be a bad result.