Rams fans' panel: Ben Frearson shares his thoughts on Derby County
THERE was a lot of hard work ahead both on and off the field when Nigel Clough was appointed Derby County manager in January 2009 and his first full season in charge of the club saw significant changes to the playing staff.
Over the next few seasons, the Rams showed signs of progress and have not been too far away from the play-offs, particularly around the January window, in recent seasons.
However, a lack of a clear intent from the board to really go for a play-off push has led to mixed results and seen Derby fall down the table, with any top-six hopes coming to an end yet again.
Clough has undoubtedly done a good job at Derby. The wage bill has been reduced, there are no big egos in the squad and the players clearly want to play for the club, while the fans have been able to enjoy bragging rights over Nottingham Forest.
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We are in better shape now than when Clough took over but we appear to be unable to reach the next stage and look like a team that will make the play-offs.
Fans may feel that positions which needed strengthening during the January transfer window have not been capitalised on, leading many to think there is a lack of desire from the board to get Derby back into the Premiership.
Clough has had some funds and while these have been limited, some say he has wasted what he has had, with the signing of Conor Sammon provoking such a debate. Sammon has a terrific work ethic and desire but appears to lack a goalscorer's instinct and fans believe they should be seeing a top goalscorer for the money spent on Sammon.
Does he bring anything better to the side than the likes of Theo Robinson or even Callum Ball? Chris Martin, on loan from Norwich City, looks an intelligent player but will he score the goals we need, even if we sign him on a permanent deal?
With limited funds, Clough has signed some terrific talent. Richard Keogh has been a great signing at the back alongside the consistently excellent John Brayford.
Will Hughes has emerged from the Academy exuding class, along with Jeff Hendrick, who has been less consistent but similarly accomplished.
They have been highlights but how long they will remain at Derby is unknown. Craig Bryson has been reliable as ever while Michael Jacobs and Jamie Ward would walk into most Championship sides.
But this brings me back to Sammon because his position is key to a promotion push. Many feel they have seen enough to suggest that he's not the answer up front and until that ruthlessness is found in a striker, or until Clough is backed properly in the January transfer window, we may continue to struggle to reach the play-offs.