The Rams go into action against runaway league leaders Sheffield United tomorrow in the comparatively rare position of having more players to choose from than there are places in the squad.
Matters have reached such a low in the past few weeks that goal keeping coach Kevin Poole and assistant manager Dean Holdsworth have both been included on the subs bench with the latter actually making an appearance on the field of play.
Phil Brown has introduced five loan signings in the last 10 days and is spoilt for choice as to who to pick for the middle of the park and the forward line.
Incredibly Brown is still talking in terms of further additions ahead of the weekend with additional cover for the centre half spot a priority.
The defence could still have a makeshift look about it with Richard Jackson only rated 50/50 to be ready in time while Marc Edworthy is looking at a lengthier spell on the sidelines after suffering a broken rib in last weekends’ game against Southampton. New boys Johnny Jackson and Peter Whittingham along with Seth Johnson are all capable of doing a job at left back though, allowing Jeff Kenna to keep his favoured spot wide on the right.
The Derby boss admits that the new blood brought bought into the club could lead to a change of formation from the 4-5-1 that he has seemed to favour so far, “players will dictate the system. It’s not my favoured formation at all, but the system when I came to the club was a 4-3-3- favoured by George Burley featuring Greg Raziak up front down the middle on his own. “
“I lost Raziak and replaced him with Stern John. Now Mounir El Hamdaoui has come into the squad and put it into my mind that we could play 4-4-2. But it is not to have more than one string to your bow.” The decision can only have been helped by the Moroccans’ performance in a behind closed doors match during the week when he bagged a brace against Chesterfield.
“Staturdays’ opponents Sheffield United are a strong side so I need to retain that strength across the middle. Without a doubt I think that has been the strength of our team this year. Not just the fact that Inigo Idiakez is a good exponent of the passing game. It’s the strength and power of the running and the tackling and the second balls which has been a big plus for me so far.”
Neil Warnocks’ men are currently flying and Brown is hopeful that his side may be the one to clip their wings, “ come 5 o’clock on Saturday I am hoping we will have given a good performance and for 11 men out there, with the 5 subs being men as well, to go and do a job at a very hostile Sheffield United. And if we do the job to the best of our ability there is no reason why we shouldn’t come out with the 3 points.”