Derby County owner Mel Morris trying to sell club for £1 – The Times

Derby County owner Mel Morris trying to sell club for £1 - The Times

How Frank Lampard became the latest manager to suffer Derbys poisoned promotion chalice – and what comes now

Mel Morris is considering selling Derby County for a token price of just £1 with the owner primarily focused on having his debts repaid through the sale process.

The clubs most recently published accounts to June 2017 show that Morris has lent the holding company who own Derby, Sevco 5112, £95 million in loans, a figure which will have increased significantly in the interim as they are losing between £1 million and £2 million each month.

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Morris has attracted interest from the United States and the Far East since letting it be known he would welcome fresh investment as Derbys attempt to win promotion to the Premier League has stalled in recent months, but has yet to receive a formal bid.

Bolton Wanderers could go into administration and Stoke City would be amongst the clubs losing points as a result

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Lamps knew the expectations when he took on the Rams’ job last summer – but after recent poor form, Derby have dropped out of the Championship play-offs. Can they keep the faith in their rookie manager?

Frank Lampard probably knew the score. At his unveiling as Derby Countys new manager, he was asked about the expectations put upon him in his first senior role. As one of 20 applicants assessed by Derby, the new manager was left under no illusions.

“It sold itself to me as a club and the players were very close to promotion last year, Lampard said. There are expectations and I understand that. I played under expectations as a player. I know whats required and the vision of the club and I will try my best to bring it to the table.”

Before Lampard, Rowett chose to leave for Stoke, but also failed to get Derby up. Steve McClaren was sacked for finishing 10th and missing out on promotion. Paul Clement was sacked with Derby fifth in the table and wobbling. Before him, McClaren again was sacked for finishing eighth. The message is pretty clear: this club wants promotion.

Nor too can Lampard claim that he hasnt been backed in the transfer market. Derby spent approximately £16m on six new first-team players last summer, and Ashley Cole and Efe Ambrose have both joined on free transfer deals with handsome wages. Add in loan deals for three Premier League players – Mason Mount, Harry Wilson and Fikayo Tomori – and this is one of the strongest and most expensively assembled squads in the Championship.

This has not been a disastrous season; far from it. Derby were beaten 4-1 by Leeds United in their first home league game but then went three months without losing at the iPro. Victory over Sheffield United in October took them into the top seven, and Derby hadnt dropped lower than that until this weekend. They still have a game in hand at home to Rotherham United to break back into the play-off positions.

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And yet there is a familiar sense of impending doom that has engulfed plenty in Derby. Their club has gained a reputation over the last half decade for capitulating towards the end of promising campaigns and thus allowing goodwill to dissipate. If Lampard was the man to change that trend, its happening again.

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It would be a nice story to believe that Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds and Spygate upset Derbys rhythm and got under the skin of their manager, but its basically a myth. Derby took eight points from their four games immediately after the defeat at Elland Road.

Instead, it was a game against rivals that Nottingham Forest in December that sparked a decline. Derby headed into the first East Midlands derby of the season having won six of their previous nine matches, but created very little and drew the game 0-0. Since that game, Lampards team have taken 19 points from 16 league games. Thats barely mid-table form.

Derby have a clear issue with inconsistency. They havent won consecutive league games over the course of the post-Forest lull, and the goals have dried up too. Having scored four goals in their last seven matches, only Middlesbrough and Bristol City have scored fewer times in the Championships top 14. Those two have conceded 13 and six goals fewer than Derby respectively.

Perhaps most worrying is Lampards tinkering with the team and shape to great effect. He changed to a 3-5-2 formation for the 1-0 home defeat to struggling Millwall, picked Andy King and Bradley Johnson as a central midfield pairing for the draw against Ipswich and then selected a remarkably cavalier starting XI at Villa Park and lost 4-0. In between those three matches, they were defeated by Forest.

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