Clowes Development (UK) Ltd completed a takeover of Derby County on Friday, ending nine months of grave uncertainty over the future of the club.
The property firm had already bought the ground from former owner Mel Morris the week before at an estimated £22 million and thus, own all assets with the Rams exiting administration.
American businessman Chris Kirchner had been the frontrunner before the deal fell through, followed by the resignation of manager Wayne Rooney, who had reportedly paid May’s wages for the squad and staff from his own pocket.
Rooney’s former assistant, Liam Rosenior, is overseeing pre-season preparations in an interim capacity for now, while David Clowes begins stabilizing matters off the field, as Cory from the Rams Review podcast discusses.
“After what has felt like years of off-the-field antics we finally might be coming to an end.
“It has cost us a place in the Championship, several future stars we have had no choice but to cash in on and more first team players moving on to leave us with a huge rebuilding job.
“But one thing still there is the club… just. It will be nice to hopefully only have on the field things to worry about from after the takeover is complete and put this awful chapter firmly in the past.”
Derby spent £83.77M on players throughout Mel Morris’ tenure as Derby owner, with a transfer net loss of nearly £30M, excluding wages.
The dangers of this may have been masked at times by events on the field, with Derby attaining four top six finishes and reaching two play-off finals in six Championship seasons, but supporters have since suffered the consequences.
Reckless overspending should be a thing of the past under Clowes, a lifelong supporter who follows the Rams home and away.
Clowes has admitted that his decision to acquire the club was not easy: describing himself as a “private person”, the 53-year-old did not want the publicity, but was determined to safeguard County’s future.
“Clowes knows the football club is the heartbeat of the city and he knows what the club is all about,” says Cory.
“Chris Kirchner came with all the talk but couldn’t back that up when needed, so having someone in charge who knows the club and what to expect can be good thing.
“The main thing that has to happen is get Derby back on track financially, then get a proper structure in place off the field secure the club’s future for the next few years.”
That structure includes having a Category One Academy, and Clowes is determined for Derby to remain one of 25 clubs in English football with a youth setup boasting that status, while positive engagement is expected with the Community Trust.
The other matter is the managerial vacancy, but with no markets in play, it is widely expected that Rosenior will start the season in charge.
“Get the right management team in, then of course you look at funds being available to have a competitive squad and hopefully be back in the Championship within two years. I would say that would be a pretty good start.”
A more pressing task is player recruitment, with just eight squad members contracted at the time of the takeover – which includes the likes of Krystian Bielik, Jason Knight and Louie Sibley, who all have attracted interest from a higher level.
The Rams will also need to recruit heavily for their development squad if they wish to compete in the PL2 in 2022-23: just nine youngsters are in the Under-23s and, as things stand, all are effectively part of the first team squad.
The club is still under a soft registration embargo but, according to the EFL, will be allowed to sign players under the terms of the business plan agreed between themselves and the new ownership, which includes restrictions on transfer fees, agent fees and wages.
“Hopefully the ball can start rolling.” says Cory. “Sort out the first team, that’s the priority. Then of course we have to look to the future and bring in some developmental players, but the first team has to be the no.1.”
The club could be in for a busy couple of weeks in the transfer market; goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith plus wingers Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Tom Barkhuizen have already signed while defender James Chester and midfielder Conor Hourihane have also been linked with moves to Pride Park.
Plus, Derby can now offer contracts to members of last season’s squad who were released due to the uncertainty, and Cory believes handing Curtis Davies a deal is a no-brainer.
“Curtis needs to be the first contract offered. He has been very open and honest about wanting to stay.
“Give him a deal, give him the armband and let him lead this team hopefully back to the Championship, its nothing less than he deserves with the commitment he has shown us.”
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