‘Instead of the miss spurring us on, our heads went down. It’s just not good enough. We’ve got to get rid of this losing culture’. The words of Paul Jewell, after his sides Pride Park defeat to Blackburn Rovers. Derby were one nil up. A penalty to go two up. It’s missed and immediately Blackburn got back in the game. It’s a sure sign of a team that has simply got used to too much losing. Expecting things to go wrong. Worn down by the inevitability of it all.
Paul Jewell has his work cut out to turn this challenge around. He needs leaders. If he can’t buy them, then he has no choice but to transform his current crop of players.
It’s about having players who will not tolerate the lowering of standards. Players who will let their colleagues know, instantly, when standards slip. Let them know what is or isn’t good enough. And players who will respond positively to this straight talk. Who will put things right instantly. Who may not like, but appreciate being told.
It’s about creating clear permissions and agreements. Agreements about standards. Agreements about what can be said when standards drop. Agreements about developing attitudes to straight talk.
The worst thing that can befall a football team is a cloud of silence. Silence born out of fear. Fear of speaking the truth. Of criticising so called senior players. This cloud of silence becomes a mask for quiet acceptance and acquiescence. Acquired fatality. In this atmosphere, nothing can change.
The transfer window may provide Paul Jewell with the leaders he needs. But his first piece of business should be in transforming the quality of communication within his squad. Derby maybe going down, but the players should not accept their fate with anything but fierce and total resistance. And be letting each other know about it.
Derby County may not be able to match the majority of the Premier League for quality of player. But they can match the best in quality of on-field communication.