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04/05: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 16/10/04, 3.00pm
Derby County
By Matt Rowson

"What do you think of my shoes, Sara?"


"What about your shoes?"


"And Betty's shoes?"



"What about Matt's shoes?"


* * * * * * * * *

There are two interpretations of the above verdict on my footwear. One possibility is that "Lubbish" was supposed to be "Rubbish", however this seems scarcely plausible. My shoes may have seen their best years, boast the filthiest, most pathetic laces known to humanity and be widely stained with the Woodstain that I used on our outhouse two summers ago but they're still serve their function and are hence very far from rubbish. My niece Sara, being the most intense nearlythree-year-old I've ever encountered, will surely appreciate this.

The second possibility is that Sara, facing the challenge of mastering a civilisation's worth of vocabulary at such a tender age, is breaking out in frustration, creating her own words where her current armoury seems insufficient. So "Lubbish" might mean any number of things... stylish, suave, sophisticated, practical, useful, comfortable. Or not. It could also mean... well, not quite crap or useless just a bit annoying, a waste of time, an irrelevance. Stop asking me about bloody shoes, in other words.

In which case, Derby County may not be rubbish... last season's shower that escaped relegation by a point (having been fortunate in at least two of the three points they got off us) appear to have been strengthened by summer comings and goings. But they are certainly Lubbish by this definition, sharing with both their East Midlands neighbours in this division a rather disproportionate view of their own significance. This was tellingly illustrated during the stiffs encounter at the Vic earlier this season when "Stevie Taylor's White and Black Army" in the top corner of the Main Stand maintained a thoroughly incongruous confrontational stance despite the general indifference that they provoked.

Lee Camp had made one senior start for the Rams prior to this season, but QPR's energetic and familiar sounding attempts to lure this successful loanee over the summer break were rebuffed and Camp is first choice keeper this time round. Hemel-born Lee Grant should be on the bench, with Andy Oakes on loan at Bolton.

Derby have defensive problems, with the cragantuous Bosnian centre-back Mo Konjic out following knee surgery. Michael Johnson, whose headlong dive into an advertising hoarding was a highlight of last season's encounter, and youngster Pablo Mills are likely to form the central pairing although George Burley seems keen to recruit at least temporary reinforcement by the weekend. Icelander Eggert Stefansson had an unsuccessful trial over the international break, whilst Nigerian Isaac Okoronkwo, who spent last year generally not playing for Wolves, was due for a reserve run-out on Tuesday evening.

Another option would be to bring the venerutive Jeff Kenna in from right back and reintroduce Richard Jackson, now back in contention after an ankle injury. Jamie Vincent should play on the left, with Paul Boertien out with cruciate ligament damage. Jason Talbot, an eighteen-year old on loan from Bolton, was on the bench at the weekend having been stamped on by Bobby Zamora during his last start.

In midfield, the absence of Spaniard Iniago Idiakez (which sounds like a made up name itself and as such needs no supplementary contortion) out with a hamstring injury picked up against Sunderland during Derby's last fixture may be keenly felt. Described on one website as "the best midfielder we've had for years", Idiakez's absence leaves a creative dearth in the centre of the park. Candidates to fill it include talented seventeen year old Tom Huddlestone, who suffered an ankle injury with the England U19 side over the weekend but is expected to be available, and Morten Bisgaard. Danish international Bisgaard, himself just coming back from a hip injury, is more conventionally a wide player.

In their last game against Sunderland, the Rams fielded three central midfielders and two wide attackers either side of a lone centre-forward. Ian Taylor should take the another central berth although there have been suggestions this season that, at 36, games are beginning to pass him by - not really what you're after in an all-action midfielder. Adam Bolder, who has been on the edge of the side since arriving from Hull City four years ago, is also getting a start.

The creative but exclusively attack-minded German Marco Reich played on the left side of the attack, with the fleebly Tommy Smith, winning plaudits for skill and effort if not for his prolific goalscoring (three in twelve for the Rams so far). The central role against Derby was given to large Polish international Grzegorz Rasiak, who has so far impressed but is yet to score in three starts for the Rams. Junior, the most one-footed player in the universe, has been disappointing thus far having been touted as Derby's missing link whilst injured for most of last season. Marcus Tudgay could feature having recovered from a shoulder injury whilst the grivelly Paul Peschisolido is another option. Gianfranco Labarthe Tome, having been named as a sub for the reserves on Tuesday night, seems no closer to establishing a first team place.

Having gone three games without scoring and going into yet another densely packed set of fixtures a good result would obviously be nice. However, with most of the squad having had two weeks without a game, and given that we've not really come to count on points from Pride Park in the past, the performance is perhaps more important. It would be good to be reassured that Crewe really was an aberration in what has otherwise been a very good season thus far.