Nathan Morley was kind enough to answer our questions leading up to the away fixture against Derby County. Away games are never easy, but Derby has little to play for, how does he think this will affect the outcome? What’s up with Chris Martin? How do you set up to defeat Derby?
Cottagers Confidential: What's up with the Chris Martin situation? Was that just McClaren being McClaren, or does the club really want him back? What do you expect to happen during the offseason?
Nathan Morley: The Chris Martin situation is a bizarre one. First of all, it was a decision taking by then-manager Nigel Pearson who was eager to change things up in a squad used to playing in a system that made the team overly reliant on Martin putting in a good shift. It didn't pay off. Many fans and people inside the club regard it as a stupid decision; a key player who'd, for all his faults, scored goals consistently and departing to a club that could potentially be promotion rivals.
Steve McClaren had massive success with Martin in previous seasons and all parties, understandably apart from Fulham, were keen for him to return. The striker even signed a new contract, so I expect him to be back with the Rams in the summer. Gary Rowett will probably want to see Martin in action first, I think he'll start the season with Derby, barring a major, major clearout of players.
CC: You're eight points out of the playoffs, but more importantly, there are four teams between you and sixth place. Have you given up all hope of promotion for this year and if so, what are the goals for the rest of the season?
NM: I think most fans have given up hope, although there is renewed optimism under Rowett. But ultimately it's too much of a long shot. A strong finish is the main goal, some players will feel they've a point to prove too ahead of a possible summer shake-up. Hopefully Rowett will be given the time and space over the coming months to get the side in better shape for a top six push, this season would be too early with the team too ill-equipped.
CC: Derby has combined a very good defense with a mediocre offense this year. What kind of teams have given you trouble this season?
NM: Scott Carson has been magnificent in goal this season and, in front of him, Richard Keogh and Alex Pearce have built a good partnership. The issue mainly is defending set pieces and having the steel to see games through. That's what Derby often lack.
Clubs getting players behind the ball and stopping the Rams from playing is what normally prevents Derby getting the points. The Rams need an answer to it and learn to move things faster at times, as well as matching the more physical sides.
There are points for Rowett to work on and to solve the conundrum of why the club falls to pieces in the second half of the season every year!
CC: Predicted lineup and score?
NM: Prediction: 2-1 Rams win, continuing that new manager bounce a fresh appointment often gives!
Line-up prediction: carson; Baird, Keogh, Pearce, Olsson; Johnson, Bryson; Ince, Vydra, Russell; Nugent (4-2-3-1)