Myles Campbell-Drummond looks into the potential demise of Derby County football club and what it means for fans
How times could have been different if Bobby Zamora didn’t score for Queens Park Rangers in the 2013/14 Championship Play-off final.
Derby County could be a 2021/22 Premier League side
Instead, they are in the middle of a horror reality with an uncertain future, mired in a relegation battle in the Sky Bet Championship, struggling to meet EFL deadlines to provide evidence of sufficient funding: just two of many issues surrounding one of England’s most recognisable clubs.
Football fans dream of playing the beautiful game, whether for world-renowned teams like Real Madrid or Manchester United or for their local clubs like Nottingham Forest, Notts County or Mansfield Town.
The passion for the Rams burns bright across generations of fans
Images of Gigg Lane, formerly home to Bury FC, portray its desolate existence: uncut grass, run-down seats, match commentary spots overrun with rust. You can roam in and out of it like an abandoned warehouse. This is one of the many futures that could await Pride Park if the worst comes to fruition.
If the Rams go under, the football scene in Derby will not be the only casualty of a Derby County-less city.
The Tourism Loss
When Pride Park isn’t hosting a football fixture, it is an amazing tourist spot for visitors from all walks of life, from those passing through the city to Nottingham to shoppers at Pride Leisure looking to tick off their Sports Direct checklist. It’s not every day that you can look at a football stadium while dining at a Subway or Frankie and Benny’s!
It’s a great spot which thrives when football officials aren’t around. Going for walks to the stadium provides a chance to see not just Pride Park, but to also be within walking distance of Derby Arena. It’s a perfect spot for tourist pictures! The stadium’s Greggs still bustles on non-matchdays, with plenty of customers stopping by to pick up lunch and quick bites. The bakery offers a few tables and chairs just outside its compact spot, allowing customers to, like with Subway and Frankie and Benny’s, enjoy the scenery and close company of a football stadium without the rush of fans piling through turnstiles.
A Loss in Education
The sports education scene in Derby is vast and varied, with Football Journalism being one of the University of Derby’s marquee degree choices: The definition of what it says on the tin. journalism based on everything to do with football, including matchday reporting, recording interviews, writing match reports. It allows students to see football in a light which very few of us do, and appreciate the long, behind-the-scenes work that takes place to stage just one game. It’s the definition of what it says on the tin.
Transport-wise, Derby is strongly connected to Nottingham. Regardless of County and Forest being arch-rivals, the cities being less than half-an-hour away from each other is a win-win for all University students, especially those studying Football Journalism. Losing Derby County leaves the University devoid of a strong selling point for one of its marquee degrees, forcing students to turn elsewhere for journalism studies on the beautiful game, a right of study which the University of Derby exclusively holds over its fellow universities.
Lifetime Memories Falling Away
Playing football is an incredible pastime for kids, allowing them to visualise and dream of playing in the biggest stadiums with their friends. Stadiums like Pride Park give kids a reason to look forward to weekends after long and tedious days in school. Alongside rugby, football is one of Derby’s biggest sports in terms of popularity, with these sports more accessible to play than cricket and athletics.
Derby County itself boasts an impressive line of academy graduates like current players Jason Knight and Louie Sibley. Will Hughes, in particular, now plays in the Premier League after winning the Scholar of the Year Award in the 2011/12 season.
No Derby County means these dreams and accolades become impossible to achieve. If a child makes their parents proud, they won’t be rewarded with a trip to Pride Park to see their beloved Rams on the weekend because the Rams won’t exist. Teams like Nottingham Forest could have a larger fanbase but for Derby fans, at what cost?
Where from here?
Diving into everything Derby County, this could either be a new start for the club or a horrid foreboding into the future. Warning signs were ringing at 2020/21’s end when they barely survived relegation at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday, another team hit with points deductions and EFL fines. 2021/22 League 1 play-off form shown by Wednesday can be seen as encouraging for Rams fans but it’s a scenario few fans want to contemplate.
Derby County is one of the city’s heartbeats. Remove it and a huge void is left which, potentially, could take decades for Derby to fill. People of all generations connect with the club and the energy of non-matchdays is an example of the club’s outreach. Opening its doors for education accessibility has led to special and meaningful moments for both the University of Derby’s reputation and its students.
With Middlesbrough settling their legal claims against the Rams, one hurdle has been passed. Many still remain. All Derby County needs is a strong sense of security, something that has slowly eroded with time.