A Stephen Pearson goal had just settled the first Championship playoff final at New Wembley, Derby beating West Brom a single goal to nil. Derby, after a five year absence, would be playing in the top flight once again. The club should have been on top of the world, shouldn't it?
Manager Billy Davies was reportedly unhappy with the board, he had been unable able to appoint David Kelly as his assistant. The rift between board and manager was large enough to prevent Davies from guaranteeing his future at the club, despite the glory of promotion.
Davies stayed after all, as David Kelly was finally appointed his number two. Davies' main gripe with promotion via the play offs was the reduced preparation time for the season ahead. A poor excuse.
Davies then proceeded to spend countless millions on sub standard players such as Claude Davis, Andy Todd, Kenny Miller and Benny Feilhaber (the latter only ever making one start). The most expensive signing was Rob Earnshaw, the club's record signing. He very rarely featured in Davies' starting line ups.
Unsurprisingly, by the third games the team had received a thrashing, a 4-0 loss at White Hart lane. The first win of the season came mid way through September. This was the only win, matching Loughborough F.C.'s 108 year record.
The months of October and November would carry on the trend set by Tottenham, including being hit for five by West Ham at home. However in October the club was to be purchased by the former Hull City owner Adam Pearson.
Davies lasted just a month under Pearson's ownership, his last game being a 2-0 home loss to Chelsea. By this point Derby had picked up only six points approaching the halfway mark of the season.
Paul Jewell almost immediately took hold of the reins. His first game was, as you might have guessed, was a loss. This lead to Jewell proclaiming that the playing staff wasn't good enough and was already relegated. This rocked what little confidence the players had left.
More change was afoot during the month of January. The club was purchased yet again, by an American consortium lead by general Sports and Entertainment (GSE), Pearson remained at the club.
GSE handed Jewell a war chest to spend in January. Relatively big names such as Robbie Savage, Hossam Ghaly and Laurent Robert along with a number of others were brought in to try and turn fortunes around.
Neither form nor results picked up. The club was in a mire. All Jewell had achieved was increasing the number of big name egos at the club as well as the wage bill. The season ended with only five points gained since Jewell had taken over, to take the total to 11, relegation confirmed as early as March. Both Premier League records. The 11 points was the worst points total a club had achieved in England since the Doncaster Rovers team of 1904/05.
The only positive aspect of that season was the fans. Nearly every game at Pride Park was a sell out, with season average home attendance being 32,432, just 900 short of maximum capacity.
The damage was lasting. The effects of this season weren't just short term. The long term future of the club had also being greatly affected. It took Jewell's successor, current manager Nigel Clough around five years to halt the clubs downward spiral and restore the wage bill of the club to more sustainable levels.
The season Derby suffered just goes to show how much damage ill preparation can do to a clubs season. It is unlikely that most of Derby's records will be broken, they will be a constant warning to clubs being promoted from The Championship.
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